By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Germany secured a ticket to next year's World Cup after topping UEFA Group C with a 3-0 win over Ireland on Friday but Joachim Loew's men head to Stockhom with a score to settle in their final qualifier against Sweden next week.
The three-time winners, who along with Brazil are the only team to participate in every World Cup tournament since 1954, have played a near flawless qualifying campaign winning eight of their nine fixtures so far.
The only blot on their copybook came in the shape of last year's 4-4 draw against Sweden, with the Germans racing to a four-goal lead before imploding in front of a home crowd in a frantic second half.
"One thing for certain is that we have a score to settle with Sweden," said Loew, who has given his players two days off after Friday's win.
"We have full trust in our players and know that they (Sweden) will go into the last game with the same high motivation," he said of Tuesday's opponents, who are themselves guaranteed a playoff berth for finishing second in the group.
"After a convincing win over Ireland and the overall quality of our dominant qualification for Brazil... the players have deserved this break," the 53-year-old said.
"We are also well aware of the workload on their clubs especially during this period."
With more than half a dozen regulars out injured, Loew could be forgiven for going easy on his squad ahead of what many consider to be a dead rubber in Stockholm, but Germany feel their reputation is on the line.
The Germans have a sensational away record in Euro or World Cup qualifying, having never lost a single game on the road.
Loew, whose record with Germany stands at 67 wins, 16 draws and 15 defeats out of 98 internationals since taking over from Juergen Klinsmann in 2006, is eager to make amends for the Sweden blip and is demanding improvements from his defence.
He insisted Germany needed to become more stable at the back and despite the comfortable nature of the win over Ireland, their defence was exposed on three seemingly innocuous occasions when the Irish could have scored.
"Everyone remembers the first game (against Sweden) where they scored four goals in the second half," Loew said.
For his players, the joy of clinching a spot in next year's tournament did not mean they would be taking their foot off the gas in the final qualifier.
"I do not know if we have a score to settle but what I know is that we want to win the last match," attacking midfielder Thomas Mueller said. (Editing by John O'Brien)
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- Joachim Loew