Germany and Poland qualify for EURO 2016


Germany had Max Kruse and Manuel Neuer to thank as it edged through to EURO 2016 in its final qualifier after a nervous 2-1 win over Georgia in Leipzig, while Poland also secured automatic qualification.

The world champion, which needed just a point to be certain of a place in next year's showpiece, missed numerous opportunities to open the scoring in the first half, with Marco Reus the worst culprit in front of goal.

Thomas Muller appeared to have settled nerves with a penalty early in the second half, only for Jaba Kankava to equalise within four minutes.

Neuer then proved his quality with a pair of stunning saves to prevent Georgia from going ahead, before substitute Kruse settled a tense win by scoring within three minutes of coming on.

The narrow victory means Germany qualifies for the tournament as Group D winner, but Joachim Low's side will know it has to be more clinical in front of goal if it is to add the European crown to its world title.

The host made its intent known within two minutes when Muller fired in an early shot from the edge of the box that was saved by Nukri Revishvili, before Toni Kroos flashed a volley wide.

The Real Madrid midfielder almost set up Muller with a cleverly-worked free-kick, but the Bayern Munich star's stretching effort was just off target.

Low's side continued to attack at pace and Ilkay Gundogan forced Revishvili into a low stop after a neat one-two with Muller. Reus then drew an even better diving stop from the Georgia goalkeeper with a low goal-bound effort.

It was all one-way traffic and Reus missed an absolute sitter with Germany's next chance, somehow blazing over from close range after being sent clean through by a brilliant Muller flick.

Despite Germany's dominance, the fragility of its status in the group was emphasised when Georgia came close to scoring on the break. Valeri Kazaishvili beat Mats Hummels and squared for Tornike Okriashvili, who forced Neuer into an excellent reflex save.

The world champion was soon back on the front foot, but Reus missed another good chance, shooting wide with his left foot after being played in by Gundogan.

The tension was temporarily lifted early in the second half when Germany won a penalty. Mesut Ozil drew a foul from Kankava in the corner of the box and Muller calmly stepped up to send Revishvili the wrong way from the resulting spot-kick.

Georgia then enjoyed its best period of the match, scoring an equaliser and forcing Neuer to make his second and third brilliant saves of the night. First, Nika Kvekveskiri sent a long-range effort towards the top corner and only a superb one-handed save from the keeper denied him.

From the resulting corner, the visitor ensured Germany's lead had lasted just four minutes. After it had worked a short corner into the box, Germany only half-cleared and was punished when Kankava lashed in an impressive volley, immediately making up for his mistake at the other end.

Georgia almost took the lead when Kazaishvili shot wide after an excellent solo run, before Neuer had to make a brilliant save to push Okriashvili's shot over from point-blank range.

Germany finally kicked back into life after those scares and Reus saw a shot pushed past the post by Revishvili with 20 minutes remaining.

Low replaced the ineffective Andre Schurrle - who had replaced the injured Mario Gotze in the starting line-up - with Kruse and the substitute made a stunning impact.

With 11 minutes remaining, Ozil found Kruse in the area and the Wolfsburg forward finished into the bottom corner with an excellent first-time finish.

Kroos had a late effort pushed wide by Revishvili as Germany held on to seal its ticket to France.

Meanwhile, Poland secured automatic qualification for EURO 2016 as Robert Lewandowski's 13th goal in Group D sealed a 2-1 win over Republic of Ireland, which finished with 10 men.

Grzegorz Krychowiak's fine strike gave Poland the lead, but Martin O'Neill's side hit back less than three minutes later through a Jon Walters penalty.

Lewandowski proved Poland's hero once again, however, heading home to equal the tournament goalscoring record set by Northern Ireland's David Healy back in EURO 2008 qualifying.

Republic of Ireland brought on Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeady as it pushed for an equaliser in the second half, but it was Richard Keogh who spurned its best chance to level the match in the closing minutes.

Poland ultimately held firm to secure second spot in the group, a point behind Germany, while O'Neill's side – which had John O'Shea dismissed for a second booking in stoppage-time – must wait to discover who it will meet in the play-offs.

The first half started in understandably nervy fashion, but Poland took the lead through a moment of real quality.

Kamil Grosicki aimed a corner to Krychowiak on the edge of the area and the Sevilla midfielder took a touch before rifling a half-volley through the crowd and into the bottom-right corner.

The home side's lead lasted barely three minutes, however, as Michal Pazdan caught Shane Long with a high foot right on the edge of the box, allowing Walters to stroke home a confident penalty.

Poland was unhappy to see the spot-kick awarded as contact looked to have taken place outside the area and the boos rang out again a few moments later as Krzysztof Maczynski's goal was ruled out for offside.

Lewandowski was marshalled well throughout the first 40 minutes, but the captain was ruthless with the first chance that came his way, powering a header past Darren Randolph from 12 yards just before the break after a good cross from Maczynski.

Republic of Ireland was dealt a blow shortly after the break when Long was carried off on a stretcher after a robust challenge from Kamil Glik and Randolph kept it in the game with a strong close-range block as Krychowiak broke through on the counter-attack.

O'Neill's side continued to push forward for an equaliser as Poland began to drop deeper, but another quick burst forward gave Lewandowski a sight of goal only for Seamus Coleman to cover his run superbly.

Chances were few and far between for Ireland, but Keogh should really have done better with just nine minutes to go, as he failed to connect properly with a point-blank header and the impressive Lukasz Fabianski made a smart save.

Republic of Ireland Ireland kept pressing, but its momentum was stalled when O'Shea got his marching orders for bringing down Lewandowski as he looked to break clear.

The defender and Walters – who was booked – are now set to miss the first leg of the play-offs as O'Neill's men will be forced to do it the hard way.

Steven Fletcher-inspired Scotland finished its EURO 2016 qualifying campaign with a flourish as it thrashed minnow Gibraltar 6-0.

A Fletcher hat-trick plus goals from Chris Martin, Shaun Maloney and Steven Naismith sealed the straightforward win in Faro, leaving Gordon Strachan's side – which already knew it could not qualify for France next year after a heartbreaking draw against Poland – in fourth place in the group with 15 points.

After Fletcher had wasted a handful of chances for the visitor, it was Derby County forward Martin who broke the deadlock with his first international goal.

Maloney added a second just before the break with a well-taken finish and Fletcher finally found the back of the net after the restart with a powerful header before doubling his tally with a neat low finish.

Substitute Johnny Russell and Fletcher both saw chances to add a fifth go begging, while Scotland's defenders enjoyed a comfortable night with very little to do.

With five minutes remaining, Fletcher grabbed his second hat-trick against Gibraltar with an emphatic finish. Substitute Naismith added a sixth in stoppage-time to seal Scotland's fourth win of the campaign.

Source Omnisport