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Germany, Poland head to Euro 2016, play-offs for Ireland


Paris : World champions Germany secured their place at Euro 2016 despite labouring to a 2-1 win at home to Georgia, while Poland also qualified for next summer’s finals after beating the Republic of Ireland 2-1.

Germany needed just a point against Georgia in Leipzig to guarantee themselves a top-two finish in Group D but Max Kruse’s 79th-minute winner ensured Joachim Loew’s men progressed as group winners on Sunday.

Thomas Mueller had given Germany the lead shortly after half-time, converting a penalty for his ninth goal in the qualifiers, before it was cancelled out almost immediately by Jaba Kankava.

“We’re happy on the whole to have secured qualification but displeased with our last two matches,” said Loew, who had seen his team lose 1-0 to Ireland on Thursday.

“This is not our standard, there’s still a lot of work ahead of us,” he added.

Robert Lewandowski equalled former Northern Ireland striker David Healy’s 13-goal record for a single European Championship qualifying campaign as Poland claimed second place in Group D.

Grzegorz Krychowiak netted a 13th-minute opener for the Poles in Warsaw before Jon Walters levelled from the penalty spot shortly after.

But Lewandowski’s 15th goal in his last six matches won it for the home side, consigning the Irish, who saw John O’Shea sent off late on, to November’s play-offs.

“We are all disappointed after doing brilliantly against Germany (last time out). We let ourselves down. We had the confidence and expected to win,” said Ireland defender Seamus Coleman.

“We have a big month now in November and we have to get going again.”

In the group’s other game, Steven Fletcher scored a hat-trick as Scotland finished their unsuccessful campaign with a 6-0 mauling of Gibraltar in Portugal.

- Albania make history –
Earlier, Albania qualified for their first major international tournament as they beat Armenia 3-0, while Romania also booked their place at the finals after a 3-0 win in the Faroe Islands.

Defeat at home to Serbia on Thursday had left Albania needing three points in Yerevan to edge ahead of Denmark to claim second place in Group I and they made the most of their second chance.

Kamo Hovhannisyan turned into his own net to give Albania a ninth-minute lead before Berat Xhimshiti made it 2-0 midway through the first half.

Substitute Armando Sadiku then added a third 14 minutes from time as Gianni De Biasi’s side secured their spot at next summer’s tournament in France.

“This has been a big success, that’s obvious,” De Biasi said.

“Every victory makes us happy, but this one is the most valuable.”

Portugal, already through as group winners, registered their seventh successive qualifying victory as they overcame Serbia 2-1 in Belgrade.

The visitors were without the rested Cristiano Ronaldo but took a fifth-minute lead through stand-in skipper Nani as the ex-Manchester United winger converted the rebound after Danny’s shot was saved by Vladimir Stojkovic.

Serbia replied through Zoran Tosic on 65 minutes but Joao Moutinho’s terrific curling strike handed Portugal all three points as the hosts saw both Aleksandar Mitrovic and Nemanja Matic sent off late on.

- Romania punch ticket -

Romania nailed down the second qualifying spot in Group F after easing past the Faroe Islands in Torshavn.

Constantin Budescu scored twice with Alexandru Maxim also on target to ensure Romania went through as group runners-up behind European Championship debutants Northern Ireland, who rounded out their qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw in Finland.

Craig Cathcart’s 31st-minute goal in Helsinki put Michael O’Neill’s side in front but Paulus Arajuuri’s late equaliser earned Finland a share of the spoils.

Greece, the 2004 European champions, belatedly recorded their first victory with Panagiotis Kone’s 86th-minute strike leading them past Hungary 4-3.

The Hungarians, who last qualified for the finals in 1972, remain in contention to qualify as the best third placed team, however, but need Spain to avoid defeat to Ukraine in Kiev on Monday.

Germany, Poland, Albania and Romania joined already qualified Wales, Belgium, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, England, hosts France, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland in the 24-team finals.

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