Germany have sealed qualification for the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 with a game to spare, Joachim Löw's world champions running out 3-1 winners against Northern Ireland in Belfast on Thursday night.
Northern Ireland 1-3 Germany
Goals: 0-1 Rudy (2'), 0-2 Wagner (21'), 0-3 Kimmich (86'), 1-3 Magennis (90+3')
With eight Bundesliga stars in the starting line-up it took Germany a mere 77 seconds to open the scoring, Bayern Munich midfielder Sebastian Rudy sending a stunning effort from distance past a helpless Michael McGovern. Northern Ireland bravely attempted to battle back, but the world champions were in complete control of midfield and spurned several gilt-edged opportunities before Sandro Wagner doubled the lead. Joachim Löw's side had the hosts on the passing carousel and were refusing to let them off, although further goals were not forthcoming before the break.
Just as they had in the first half, the world champions burst out of the blocks at the start of the second period, Thomas Müller forcing an excellent save from McGovern in the 51st minute. Mats Hummels went close from the resultant corner, and although Northern Ireland grew into proceedings as the game wore on, Joshua Kimmich's fine finish in the closing stages rendered Josh Magennis' late goal mere consolation and sealed Germany's World Cup ticket: Löw's troops will provide formidable opposition for any nation looking to wrest the World Cup away from them.
Man of the match
Kimmich was masterful, turning in a dominant display from right-back. The Bayern man was a constant outlet for his team-mates on the flank, teeing up club-mate Rudy for the opener, and crowned an outstanding display with a technically perfect volley past McGovern at the near post in the final moments.
Northern Ireland: McGovern - McLaughlin, McAuley, J. Evans, Brunt – Hodson (Dallas, 46'), C. Evans (Saville, 80'), Davis, Norwood - Magennis, Lafferty (Washington, 69')
Coach: Michael O'Neill
Germany: ter Stegen - Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Plattenhardt - Kroos, Rudy - Müller (c) (Stindl, 83'), Goretzka (Can, 67'), Draxler (Sane, 72') - Wagner
Coach: Joachim Löw
- Germany have won all nine games in Group C: only they and Switzerland (Group B) still boast a perfect record this qualifying campaign.
- These were the first goals Northern Ireland have conceded at home this qualifying campaign.
- Löw's side will become only the second nation to win all 10 games of a European qualifying campaign (after Spain 2010) if they beat Azerbaijan in Kaiserslautern on Sunday.
- Germany have had 19 different goalscorers this qualifying campaign; more than any other nation.