FCB duo fire Germany and Poland to France
Both Germany and Poland were forced to work until the very end, but by the time of the final whistle on Sunday evening, the world champions with Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller and Jérôme Boateng and the East Europeans spearheaded by captain Robert Lewandowski both booked automatic berths at Euro 2016. In the final round of qualifiers Joachim Löw's men beat Georgia 2-1 in Leipzig and finished as winners of Group D, with Poland claiming the runners-up spot thanks to a 2-1 victory in a win-or-bust shoot-out against third-placed Ireland in Warsaw.
In the absence of the injured Mario Götze, the Germany-Georgia clash was on a knife-edge for a long spell until Wolfsburg's Max Kruse struck the 79th-minute winner shortly after coming on as a sub, although the home team went into the match knowing a point would have been enough to seal a place in France. Müller had made it 1-0 from the penalty spot five minutes after the interval, but Jaba Kankava equalised three minutes later with a speculative but unstoppable effort.
"It feels like we score 50 goals in training, one effort after another ends up in the net, but today we've found it such tough going again. We're making life hard for ourselves," Neuer commented afterwards, lamenting his team's wastefulness against the hard-working but inferior Georgians. "It'll be different at the European championship. I hope we'll rediscover the form we've come to expect from Germany."
Lewandowski equals scoring record
The Poles were in a much more jubilant mood after a deserved home success against the Irish. FC Sevilla's Grzegorz Krychowiak sent the fans at the National Stadium in Warsaw into raptures with the opening goal after 13 minutes, but the Irish hit back just three minutes later with a Jonathan Walters penalty. However, Lewandowski rode to the rescue yet again with a spectacular 12-yard diving header to restore the lead three minutes before half-time.
FCB striker Lewandowski continued his current rich vein of form and also equalled a European championship record with his 13th goal in the current qualifying round: only Ulsterman David Healy scored as often in the 2008 qualifiers. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (2012) and Davor Suker (1996) netted 12 times.
The Euro 2016 groups will be drawn on 12 December. The first-ever 24-team Euro takes place in France from 10 June to 10 July 2016.