Germany held off a spirited Poland fight back to move above their neighbors and into top spot in Group D of Euro 2016 qualifying with a 3-1 victory in Frankfurt. An impressive start form the world champions saw Thomas Müller and Mario Götze find the net inside 20 minutes. While the duo’s Bayern Munich teammate Robert Lewandowski pulled one back for the visitors in fine style before the interval, Götze struck again late on to seal Germany a thoroughly deserved victory.
The win is the fifth in a row in qualifiers for Joachim Low’s men and sees them in a strong position with just three games remaining. Poland are now two points back in the second and final automatic qualifying berth, while the Republic of Ireland sit a further two points adrift in the playoff spot. Germany travel to fourth-placed Scotland on Monday, while Poland host group whipping boys Gibraltar.
For Germany it represents an impressive turn around after they followed up their triumph in Brazil last year with a stuttering start to their attempts to make it to France in 2016. Their lowest point came in a 2-0 defeat in Poland last October, but from early on it was clear that Germany were in no mood to endure a repeat result in their first international of the new season.
In the opening 35 minutes Germany played some of their best football since taking home the World Cup. And it proved too much for a Poland side aiming to get to their third straight European Championships. Within 12 minutes the hosts were in front, when left-back Jonas Hector linked up well with another of the team’s more inexperienced members, Karim Bellarabi, to get behind the Poland defense and square the ball for Müller to apply a simple finish and get his 29th goal for his country.
Seven minutes later the lead was doubled. The impressive Hector was again involved, this time laying the ball inside for Götze, who brilliantly cut inside past a bewildered defender before striking low through an opponent’s legs and beating Poland goalkeeper Lukasz Fabiasnki down low at his near post.
At that point it appeared Germany would go onto win at a canter. It is to Poland’s credit then that they ensured that for much of the remaining 90 minutes it was a genuine contest. Germany had come close to taking a 3-0 lead when Hector and Müller saw efforts denied, only for Poland to launch a blistering counter attack moments later and half their deficit nine minutes before the interval.
With a host of defenders unavailable, Low handed a debut to Liverpool’s Emre Can in a less familiar right-back role. It was to be the newcomer who was exposed for Poland’s goal. With Can caught upfield, Kamil Grosicki was played into the space vacated and the Rennes attacker struck a fine cross with the outside of his right foot to allow Lewandowski the opportunity to head home in the middle.
Lewandowski had gotten the better of his Bayern teammate Manuel Neuer on that occasion, but he was to be denied in first-half injury time. A poor clearance from Neuer had allowed the striker to get through on goal, but he redeemed himself spectacularly with a superb save from a fierce drive.
Lewandowski was frustrated once more moments later when Götze cleared off the line from his header. And there was another scare for Germany in the second half. Neuer saved from Krzysztof Mączyński, but the ball went straight onto the head of Grosicki and could have easily bounced into the net only for it to instead go just wide.
There was some relief then when Götze restored Germany’s two-goal advantage with eight minutes remaining. The man who scored the winning goal in the World Cup final was a menace throughout cutting in from the left and had hit the post earlier in the second half. He was involved in both the creation and finish of the third goal. His run and pass set up Müller for a shot that took a deflection to leave Fabianski only able to repel the ball straight out for Götze to apply an easy finish.