The Germany national team made it seven wins from eight in qualifying to secure top spot in Group C. Joachim Löw’s men put six goals past Northern Ireland to round off the campaign and secure a place in pot one for the EURO 2020 draw, set to take place on November 30 in Bucharest.
Serge Gnabry stole the show in Frankfurt’s Commerzbank-Arena with his eleventh, twelfth and 13th goals for Germany in just his 13th game. Leon Goretzka scored twice and Julian Brandt added the final goal in stoppage time. Jonas Hector impressed with assists for the first two goals which turned the game in Germany’s favour after Northern Ireland had taken the lead in the seventh minute courtesy of a Michael Smith volley.
Joachim Löw made five changes to the side that started the 4-0 win against Belarus on Saturday: Marc-Andre ter Stegen replaced Manuel Neuer between the sticks, Emre Can and Jonathan Tah lined up at centre back with Hector and Brandt also making the first eleven. Lukas Klostermann completed the back four at right back. Up front alongside Julian Brandt, Löw put his trust in Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka. Toni Kroos led the team out as captain and was joined in central midfield by Joshua Kimmich and Ilkay Gündogan.42,855 spectators watched on as the visitors from Northern Ireland took a surprise lead. Kroos’s clearance from an attacking throw-in fell to the feet of Smith, who struck it cleanly into the bottom corner (7’). After that, Kroos began to pull the strings in midfield and played a world class through ball for Serge Gnabry just two minutes after the Northern Ireland goal. The Bayern forward’s run at goal was thwarted by goalkeeper Bailey Peackock-Farrell.
Two minutes later, Kroos played his next key pass, this time finding forward-thinking Jonas Hector at the by-line. Hector’s cutback found Gündogan, whose header bounced out off the post. Germany’s next chance came from Hector down the left again and Peacock-Farrell was fortunate to prevent a goal from the resulting pinball in the box. Third-time lucky: Hector this time finding the feet of Serge Gnabry, who turned and let fly, finding the top corner.
Germany kept their opponents permanently on the back foot inside their own penalty area and were rewarded with another goal shortly before the break to take the lead. Hector again provided the assist after he latched onto a long ball from Kimmich and sent a dangerous cross into the area, which narrowly missed Gnabry at the near post but fell to Goretzka. The Bayern man's effort rolled in off the post for his tenth Germany goal in 25 international appearances (43').
Having gone behind, Northern Ireland abandoned their defensive posts in search of a goal after the break. Germany immediately took advantage of the spaces they left behind. Klostermann was set free out wide and he pulled it back to Gnabry, who duly hammered the ball home to make it 3-1 (47'). His third goal was provided by Brandt, whose beautiful pass split the Northern Ireland defence. Gnabry then managed to squeeze the ball past Peacock-Farrell from a tight angle to complete his hat-trick (60').
Niklas Stark finally made his international debut after spending seven games on the bench and, in so doing, became the 106th Germany player of the Löw's era. Stark had little to do at centre-back as his team pushed deeper and deeper into the opposition half in the hope of grabbing more goals. The strategy paid off as Goretzka scored his second of the game from range (73') and Brandt added a late cherry on top (90+1').