Germany moves top of Euro 2016 qualifying group
BERLIN (AP) Germany assumed top spot in its European Championship qualifying group at Poland’s expense, while Albania and Denmark could not take advantage of Portugal’s competitive night off on Friday.
Group I leader Portugal hosted France for a friendly in Lisbon, knowing it could be overtaken depending on the result in Copenhagen.
However, the Danes and Albanians could only manage a scoreless draw, leaving both sides level on 11 points, one behind Portugal, which visits Albania for a qualifier on Monday.
”They got lucky,” Portugal forward Nani said after his side’s 1-0 loss to France. ”We have to keep the same attitude and play good football in Albania because their result is good for us.”
France substitute Mathieu Valbuena’s late free kick was enough for the French, who qualify automatically as hosts of Euro 2016.
In Group D, Germany’s World Cup hero Mario Goetze scored twice to help his side to a 3-1 win over previously unbeaten Poland in Frankfurt.
”We’re happy to have won against the strongest opponents in the group,” said Thomas Mueller, who opened the scoring for Germany.
Germany and Poland remain the favorites for the two automatic qualifying places from the group, leaving Ireland and Scotland to scrap it out for third place.
The best third-placed team qualifies directly, while the other eight third-place finishers can qualify through playoffs.
Ireland took advantage of Scotland’s 1-0 loss in Georgia by beating Gibraltar 4-0 in Portugal to move third, two points behind Poland. Germany leads with 16 points – two ahead of Poland – with three rounds of games remaining.
Here is a look at Friday’s Euro 2016 qualifying matches:
Goetze’s goals helped Germany avenge its first ever defeat to Poland last October and replace the visiting side at the top.
”We knew it was an important game. We really wanted top spot,” Goetze said.
Mueller opened the scoring in the 12th minute, assisted by Cologne defender Jonas Hector, who also set up Goetze seven minutes later.
Poland captain Robert Lewandowski pulled one back with a thumping header to Kamil Grosicki’s brilliant cross, but Goetze sealed the win on the rebound in the 82nd after Lukasz Fabianski saved Mueller’s initial effort.
Valeri Kazaishvili’s 38th-minute strike was enough for Georgia to claim its second group win and deal a blow to Scotland’s hopes of qualifying.
Against Gibraltar, Ireland’s Cyrus Christie opened the scoring with a fine individual effort in the first half, Robbie Keane made it 2-0 four minutes after the break and the Los Angeles Galaxy forward converted a penalty two minutes after that. Substitute Shane Long wrapped it up in the 79th.
Northern Ireland took the lead in Group F with a 3-1 win in the Faeroe Islands, while Hungary and Romania stayed scoreless in a game marred by fan violence.
Police used tear gas and water cannon on fans as ambulances took away the injured. Fans threw rocks and garbage at police, who said at least 13 people were detained.
Gareth McAuley scored twice and Kyle Lafferty got the other for Northern Ireland in Torshavn. Joan Edmundsson claimed the Faeroes’ only goal but picked up a second yellow card as the home side played the final 25 minutes with 10 men.
Also, Finland subjected Greece to its fourth loss from four home games, with Joel Pohjanpalo scoring for a 1-0 win.
Northern Ireland leads with 16 points, one ahead of Romania and four clear of Hungary.
Denmark drew 0-0 with Albania, while Serbia beat Armenia 2-0 at home for its first group victory.
Serbia took the lead in the 22nd minute when Filip Kostic delivered a cross to the back post where Andrija Zivkovic put the ball toward the line with Armenian defender Levon Hayrapetyan getting the final touch for an own goal. Adem Ljajic capitalized on a rebound to claim the second goal shortly after the break.
Neither Serbia nor Armenia can qualify.
In Copenhagen, the visitors surprised the Danes by being much more offensive than expected.
Sokol Cikalleshi’s header in the 23rd minute forced Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel into action.
Denmark dominated the second half with attempts from Nicolai Jorgensen, Nicklas Bendtner and Daniel Agger. Bendtner had a goal ruled out for offside.