World champions Germany won Group C last night with a 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland. The result was enough for Northern Ireland to qualify as one of the best third-place teams, whilst Poland qualify as runners-up.
Joachim Löw’s side had yet to hit the top of their game like they did in Brazil two years ago but the scoreline at the Parc des Princes certainly didn’t reflect the game as Germany dominated the game from start to finish.
Northern Ireland knew coming into the game that a point would see them progress whilst losing as a small a margin as possible was the next best thing. They can be thankful to Thomas Müller and co for the latter as the Bayern Munich forward spurned a number of chances in the first half, which included a one-on-one, hitting the post and the bar in three separate efforts.
In all, Germany had 28 shots to Northern Ireland’s two with goalkeeper Michael McGovern a strong candidate for man of the match having made 10 saves. This included denying Müller one-on-one and a spectacular fingertip save to deny a Mario Gómez header late on.
Gómez scored the winner on half hour with a deflected effort after some unselfish play from Thomas Müller to set his former teammate up. In the process, the Beşiktaş striker became Germany’s all-time top scorer in this competition with five goals. Thomas Müller has now gone eight goals without a game in European Championship finals and last night saw him record his first assist.
Michael O’Neill’s side rarely showed much of a threat but they did have a couple of counter-attacks when Germany had limited numbers at the back but nothing ever materialised.
Germany may face further criticism back home for their lack of goals but play like this in their next match and you can be sure the goals will stack up – they simply didn’t have their shooting boots on in Paris.
In the other Group C game, Poland were 1-0 winners over Ukraine thanks to a nice finish from Jakub Błaszczykowski. Both Poland and Germany finish top of the group on seven points with the three-time winners topping the group by one goal.
Ukraine have set a new European Championship record by failing to score in five consecutive games in this competition, having won their first match 2-1 against Sweden four years ago. They are the only team at Euro 2016 who failed to pick up as much as a point.
Trouble flared up as French police fired tear gas and used their batons to break up fights between rival Poland football fans in Marseille on Tuesday. Poland fans were seen lighting a flare inside the Stade Vélodrome shortly after kick off.
Both Germany and Poland are yet to concede a single goal in 270 minutes each in this competition but both will want to improve their potency in front of goal if they want to progress far in France. Robert Lewandowski is still yet to have a single shot on target in three matches.
Poland have been drawn against Switzerland in the second game in the top half of the draw to be played at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Étienne on Saturday – the first match of the round.
Germany are in the terrifying half of the draw and will . They will start with a third place team but then face either Spain or Italy in the quarter-finals with the winner likely to meet France in the semi-finals. England are also in the same half of the draw.