OSLO, Norway — Thomas Mueller helped Germany launch a confident start to its World Cup title defense Sunday with a 3-0 away win over Norway.

Mueller scored two goals and set up another for Bayern Munich teammate Joshua Kimmich as the world champions eased to a comfortable start in the Group C qualifier.

“With Thomas Mueller I’d rather he had scored a few goals at the European Championship,” Germany coach Joachim Loew joked.

Mueller opened the scoring in the 15th minute, scrambling the ball in at the second attempt after seeing his first try blocked by a combination of Even Hovland and Havard Nordtveit.

It was an unconventional goal, typical of Mueller, who hadn’t scored internationally since the 2-1 win over Georgia in Euro 2016 qualifying in October 2015.

Mueller set up Kimmich just before the break, spotting his run and laying off the ball for the 21-year-old to score his first international goal, and the forward then rounded off the scoring on the hour, heading in a precise cross from Sami Khedira.

“He worked really hard at the European Championship and had a lot of chances without scoring a goal. This will do him good for the rest of the season,” Loew said of Mueller.

Rune Jarstein prevented an even worse evening for Norway with a good save to deny substitute Julian Brandt late on.

Manuel Neuer led Germany out as designated team captain for the first time following Bastian Schweinsteiger’s retirement but the ‘keeper had little to do.

It was Loew’s 139th game in charge, putting him level with Helmut Schoen, though he still has some way to go before matching Sepp Herberger’s record of 167 matches.


ALSO IN GROUP C

Northern Ireland held the Czech Republic to a goalless draw in Prague. Filip Novak missed a great chance in the second half for the home side, which had looked more like scoring in what was a frustrating debut for new coach Karel Jarolim.

Ruslan Gurbanov’s first international goal gave Azerbaijan a 1-0 win in San Marino, which had defender Cristian Brolli sent off early in the second half.