Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Draw earns Germany place at Euro 2008

DUBLIN DELIGHT Despite the absence of key players Michael Ballack and Miroslav Klose, Joachim Loew's side did enough in Ireland to qualify for next year's tournament

AFP , PARIS

Germany became the first qualifier for the Euro 2008 finals on a night when heavyweights England, France and Italy kept on course to make it through to Austria and Switzerland.

It was a lackluster 0-0 draw by Germany against the Republic of Ireland on Saturday night at Croke Park but it was enough to book their berth in the 16-team event.

England earned a fifth consecutive 3-0 victory at home to Estonia, France's Thierry Henry equalled the French record of Michel Platini with his 41st goal in a 6-0 victory in the Faroe Islands, and then Italy had a 2-0 victory over Georgia in Genoa.

France's win meant they were in third spot in a very tight Group B on 22 points, one point behind Italy, and two behind pool leaders Scotland.

Scotland remained in pole position to qualify with an impressive 3-1 win at home to Ukraine at Hampden Park.

Italy meanwhile thanked Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Grosso for goals either side of the break for their victory.

The single point kept Germany top of Group D to assure qualification, while the Irish are virtually out of the running for next June's European championship finals.

With three games still to play for Germany, this is the earliest a German team have ever qualified for a major tournament and they are favorites to win the group over the second-placed Czech Republic with Ireland in third.

Steve Staunton's Republic of Ireland side were beaten 1-0 in Stuttgart in September last year when the teams last met, but neither side could conjure a goal in a dull 90 minutes.

Germany were missing captain Michael Ballack, who is recovering from ankle surgery, while striker Miroslav Klose, the top-scorer at last year's World Cup, was out with a knee injury.

"We are pleased to secure qualification and the team deserves praise," said Germany's head coach Joachim Loew, whose side face the Czechs in Munich on Wednesday.

The England v Estonia Group E contest was over by half-time, an early strike by Shaun Wright-Phillips being followed by Wayne Rooney's 13th goal for his country -- his first outside of friendlies since Euro 2004 -- and an own goal by Estonian midfielder Taavi Rahn.

England coach Steve McClaren said he was delighted to get the game effectively wrapped up early on.

"It was vital we got the three points we did. We wanted the tempo high in the first 20 minutes and we won it in the first 20 minutes. It was a professional performance," he said.

Henry's eighth-minute goal in the Faroes equalled Platini's record.

"It's amazing to equal a player like him [Platini]," Henry told French television station TF1. Henry added France had good young players and that it was a "pleasure" to see Karim Benzema (two goals) and Hatem Ben Arfa (scoring on his debut) find the net.

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