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Germans seal Euro berth

Many good results for Reds’ international stars

Germany celebrated their best-ever European Championship qualifying campaign by claiming a EURO 2008 berth with three games to spare, courtesy of a goalless draw with Ireland in Dublin on Saturday night. Joachim Löw’s team thus become the first nation apart from the joint hosts to book a place at next summer’s tournament in Switzerland and Austria.

A depleted Germany line-up struggled for rhythm in a physical encounter at Croke Park, a situation partly attributable to the early departure of Bayern playmaker Bastian Schweinsteiger following an 18th-minute collision with Kevin Kilbane. The 23-year-old Munich man required seven stitches to repair a four-centimetre cut. “He’s fine again now,” reported assistant boss Hansi Flick at half-time. The midfielder is expected to be fit for Germany’s top-of-the-table clash with the Czech Republic in Munich on Wednesday.

Podolski as super sub

The 68,000 crowd saw Schweinsteiger’s team-mate Marcell Jansen complete the full 90 minutes, delivering a clutch of dangerous crosses from the left wing. Lukas Podolski started from the bench before replacing Stuttgart’s Mario Gomez after 64 minutes. “He had a few good moments and looked dangerous,“ head coach Löw said in praise of the Bayern striker.

Elsewhere, Franck Ribery and his France team-mates completed a routine 6-0 victory away to the outclassed Faeroe Islands. Nicolas Anelka opened the scoring on six minutes after fine build-up play from Ribery, before Thierry Henry (8), Karim Benzema (50), Jerome Rothen (66), Karim Benzema (81) and Hatem Ben Arfa (90), who came on for Ribery in the 64th minute, rattled up the remaining goals. The World Cup runners-up now require victories against Lithuania in Nantes on Wednesday and away to the Ukraine on 21 November to be sure of progressing from Group B.

Held up by fog

The game in front of 8,076 spectators at the Torsvollor stadium may have been a mismatch, but the French squad’s trip to the Faeroes proved eventful. Dense fog prevented the party from travelling to the islands on Friday, compelling Ribery and Co to spend an unscheduled night in Norway before making another attempt to travel on Saturday. Even then, the two-time European champions only landed in Torshavn three and a half hours before kick-off.

World Cup winners Italy ran up a crucial 2-0 victory over Georgia in Genoa courtesy of goals from Andrea Pirlo (44) and Fabio Grosso (84) to move onto 23 points in the hotly-contested Group B, one ahead of France but still one behind Scotland, 3-1 winners against Ukraine. Munich’s Luca Toni played the full 90 minutes and was unlucky to see a first-half header come back off the post, although Luca did provide the assist for Grosso’s decisive late strike.

Full game for Van Buyten

The evening ended on a less positive note for Hamit Altintop, suspended for Turkey’s disappointing 1-1 draw in Moldova. The result leaves Turkey second in Group C, just a point ahead of Norway going into Wednesday’s showdown with leaders and reigning Euro champions Greece in Istanbul. Finally, Daniel van Buyten will have been delighted to complete the full 90 minutes for Belgium at home to Finland, although the goalless draw finally extinguished the Red Devils’ already slender hopes of qualifying for next summer’s tournament.

Over in South America, Martin Demichelis and Argentina made a successful start to their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-0 home win against Chile thanks to free-kick goals from Juan Roman Riquelme (27/45+1). Demichelis earned plaudits for another solid display at centre-half. “It was very important to start with a win,” Micho declared after the match at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires. The Albiceleste now travel to face Venezuela in Maracaibo on Tuesday.