Germany made to wait as N.Ireland, Portugal claim Euro spots
World champions Germany missed a chance to clinch their place at Euro 2016 after losing 1-0 to the Republic of Ireland on Thursday, while Northern Ireland secured their first finals trip after beating Greece 3-1.
In Braga, Portugal also locked down their place at next summer’s tournament in France after beating Denmark 1-0 to wrap up top spot in Group I.
Joachim Loew’s Germany just needed to avoid defeat in Dublin to seal qualification but came unstuck as Shane Long’s second-half goal kept the Irish in with a chance of securing automatic qualification in their final game in Poland.
“It’s an unexpected and entirely unnecessary defeat,” said Loew.
“We had a lot of chances to score but we also lacked precision when it mattered most.”
A draw at home to Georgia on Sunday, though, will still be enough to send Germany to next year’s tournament, although they will likely be missing Mario Goetze who was injured on Thursday.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is also likely to miss out after being sidelined in Dublin due to a training ground groin strain.
Poland and Ireland go into Sunday’s showdown in Warsaw level on 18 points, having drawn the first meeting 1-1.
“We’ve put in some great performances over the year, but this probably tops it all off,” Irish goalscorer Long told Sky Sports.
“It’s nice to be able to go Poland knowing you have a chance to qualify.”
The Poles remain ahead of Ireland on goal difference, however, despite being held to a 2-2 draw by Scotland in Glasgow.
Robert Lewandowski continued his incredible goalscoring form with a third-minute opener for Poland at Hampden Park but the hosts replied through Matt Ritchie’s terrific long-range strike just before half-time.
Steven Fletcher then put the Scots ahead on 62 minutes with a wonderful curling effort but Lewandowski rescued a point right at the death to spell the end of Scotland’s qualification hopes.
– Strachan proud -“I am hugely disappointed for the players. I’ve seen a group of lads give as much as they can give,” said Scotland boss Gordon Strachan.
“I’m really proud of what they’ve done as they put so much work into that and they’ve been a bit unfortunate.”
In Belfast, Northern Ireland ensured they will make their first-ever appearance at the European championships next June after easing past Euro 2004 winners Greece 3-1.
Michael O’Neill’s men needed two points from their remaining two matches to secure a top-two finish in Group F, but wrapped up qualification with a game to spare.
Skipper Steven Davis prodded in a first-half opener at Windsor Park before Kilmarnock forward Josh Magennis, deputising for the suspended Kyle Lafferty, headed in a corner for his first international goal to double the home side’s lead after the break.
Davis then netted his second of the contest before Christos Aravidis scored a late consolation for the Greeks.
“The players were outstanding. It’s a privilege to be here, I’m proud to stand here as their manager,” said O’Neill.
Ovidiu Hoban’s 91st-minute equaliser for Romania kept them in pole position to claim the second automatic qualifying spot from Group F after a 1-1 draw at home to Finland.
Romania, who travel to the Faroe Islands in their final game, will assure themselves of automatic qualification providing they match Hungary’s result in Greece at the weekend.
Joao Moutinho’s second-half goal for Portugal earned Fernando Santos’s men a place in France, while Denmark face an anxious wait to see if they automatically qualify.
“I had the joy of scoring the goal that qualified us but we all fought hard and we all deserve to be applauded,” said Moutinho.
Albania could have pipped the Danes into second with three points at home to Serbia, but stoppage-time goals from Aleksandar Kolarov and Adem Ljajic earned the visitors a 2-0 victory, leaving Albania needing a win in Armenia on Sunday to qualify for their first major tournament.