World champions back to their best

Thomas Mueller (right) celebrates with Jonas Hector after he opens the scoring for Germany in the first half of their 3-1 Euro 2016 qualification win over Poland in Frankfurt.
Thomas Mueller (right) celebrates with Jonas Hector after he opens the scoring for Germany in the first half of their 3-1 Euro 2016 qualification win over Poland in Frankfurt.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN • Joachim Loew says Germany can improve further in tomorrow's Euro 2016 football qualifier away to Scotland, after Mario Goetze's goals sealed a 3-1 win over Poland to top their group.

Thomas Mueller gave the hosts an early lead in Frankfurt on Friday and Goetze scored twice as Germany avenged last year's 2-0 defeat in Warsaw to replace Poland at the top of Group D.

Poland captain Robert Lewandowski pulled one back with a diving header.

"We had one goal, to win the game, that was the most important thing," said Germany's head coach Loew after arguably his side's best display since winning last year's World Cup.

"All in all, we can be very happy, the team were very focused over long stretches, but the chances Poland had came from our mistakes.

"It will be a different type of game against Scotland, much tighter, and we have areas to improve."

Loew sprang a surprise by starting with Liverpool midfielder Emre Can, 21, at right-back.

The experiment was only a partial success as the debutant was caught out for Poland's goal.

The Germans were also guilty of some stray passing in midfield.

"We're certainly relieved that we won but I would have liked to see that we are a little more stable and not play so many bad passes," Mueller said. "Overall, we are satisfied, we've beaten the strongest opponents in the group."

Scotland's 0-1 loss at Georgia saw them drop to fourth in the table.

Germany have 16 points. Poland are second on 14 while Ireland, who thumped Gibraltar 4-0, go third with 12, one ahead of the Scots.

In Group F, Northern Ireland are just one victory away from their first European Championship appearance, as they beat the Faroe Islands 3-1 to sit top with 16 points.

They are one point ahead of Romania who drew 0-0 in Hungary.

Two goals from Gareth McAuley and a third from Kyle Lafferty sealed Northern Ireland's win.

They qualify if they beat Hungary tomorrow at Windsor Park.

"We seem to have come through unscathed and it would be fantastic if we could do it in front of our own fans," said Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill.

In Group I, Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal were the big winners despite not playing a qualifier.

Their group opponents Denmark and Albania played out a 0-0 draw in Copenhagen.

With the result, Portugal lead the group with 12 points, one ahead of Albania and Denmark.

Albania host Portugal tomorrow, with the Scandinavians travelling to modest Armenia. The latter lost 0-2 at bottom-of-the-table Serbia.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 06, 2015, with the headline 'World champions back to their best'. Print Edition | Subscribe