UEFA Euro 2016
Parc Des Princes, Paris, France
World Champions Germany secured top spot in Group C after beating Northern Ireland 1-0 at the Parc des Princes in Paris.
A first-half strike from Mario Gómez proved to be the difference as Germany progressed into the knock-out stages for the fifth time since becoming a unified nation whilst Northern Ireland finished in third and await to find out whether they are one of the four best third-placed teams.
Germany started well and should have taken the lead in the seventh minute when a clever first-time pass from Mesut Özil played Thomas Müller through on-goal, but with just Michael McGovern to beat, his strike was smothered by the keeper.
Three minutes later, Germany should have gone ahead again. A brilliant cross-field pass from Jérôme Boateng found Özil who was through on-goal but just as he tried to get a shot away, he miscued his effort; swinging and missing the ball completely.
A minute later, Germany had another brilliant chance when a Sami Khedria touch inadvertently found the free Mario Götze, whose effort was smothered well by McGovern who spread himself before Joshua Kimmich miscued the rebound: chipping the ball harmlessly over the bar when he should have scored.
In the 22nd minute, Germany went close when Gómez chested a pass from Kimmich onto Müller who volleyed inches wide of the far-post.
Three minutes later, Northern Ireland went close when Jamie Ward stole the ball from Götze before firing an effort that produced a good save from Manuel Neuer.
A minute later, Germany nearly took the lead when a Kimmich cross was met by Müller with a diving header that struck the outside of the post with McGovern well-beaten.
The goal was coming and three minutes later, Germany went ahead. Gómez found Müller after a nice pass from Özil, but the Bayern Munich forward was forced wide and couldn’t pull the trigger, and instead found Gómez who found the back of the net via a deflection.
Five minutes later, Germany nearly got a second when Götze pulled the ball back to Müller whose first-time effort rattled the bar with the keeper beaten again.
Five minutes before the break, Germany should have doubled their lead when Özil did well to find Gómez free in-space after Müller dragged two defenders with him, but Gómez’s first-time effort was scuffed and it fell easily for McGovern.
Germany started the second-half in the ascendancy and went close to adding to their tally, six minutes into the restart when Kimmich found Götze with a fine cross-field pass and the Bayern Munich did well to control the ball before firing an effort that McGovern did well to smother away.
A minute later, Germany went close again when Jonas Hector did well to get to the byline before pulling the ball back to Götze who shot wide of the near-post from close-range.
Six minutes later, Germany should have doubled their lead when Sami Khedira drove forward before firing an effort that forced McGovern into a good save but he palmed it into the path of Gómez who headed wide on the follow-up when he should have scored.
In the 81st minute, Germany went close to a second when Kimmich cut inside before finding Gómez who met the cross with a powerful header that forced McGovern into a good save with the keeper palming the ball away.
That was the last action of the match as Germany held on to secure a place in the last-16.
In truth, Germany could have had four or five goals had it not been for McGovern who came to Northern Ireland’s rescue and spare his side’s blushes with some fine saves, which may be pivotal if they are to be one of the four best third-placed teams.
The result meant that Germany secured top-spot with seven points, and are joined by Poland, who also have seven points after beating Ukraine and finish behind Germany on goal difference. Northern Ireland remain in third on three points and will wait to find out if they are one of the four best third-placed teams whilst Ukraine finish fourth, without a point and bow out.