Germany inch closer to Euro 2012 spot

Germany all but assure their place at Euro 2012 finals with a comfortable 3-1 victory in Azerbaijan.

    Mesut Oezil, left, helps Germany maintain their 100% qualification record in Group A [EPA]

    Germany coach Joachim Loew notched up seven wins from seven in his Euro 2012 qualifying campaign as Germany breezed past Azerbaijan 3-1 on Tuesday.

    Mesut Oezil scored one goal and set up another as Germany all but qualified for next year's tournament, topping Group A with 21 points.

    Elsewhere, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's hat trick in a 5-0 rout of Finland kept Sweden in the hunt for top spot in Group E.

    Hungary stayed three points behind Sweden thanks to a 3-0 win in San Marino, Belarus beat Luxembourg 2-0 to close to within a point of Group D leader France, and there were also wins for Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Faeroe Islands in qualifying.


    Loew will have the luxury of almost a year to prepare for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

    At the most Germany need three points from their final three games but will also qualify if third-placed Turkey, the only team who can catch them, fail to win all of their last four matches.

    "You have to pay the team a huge compliment. I think we've played an excellent season,'' said Loew.

    "After all, it's 24 days since the Bundesliga finished up. Of course you can also see that the players are at their limit after a long season.''

    Oezil scored in the 30th minute, when he collected a cross from Benedikt Hoewedes outside the area, took two touches past two Azeri defenders and unleashed an angled shot that rebounded in off the post.

    The Real Madrid midfielder set up Mario Gomez for a tap-in 11 minutes later.

    Azerbaijan's Vugar Nadyrov had an effort ruled out for offside in the 64th, before Murad Huseynov scored a late consolation in the 89th.

    Andre Schuerrle restored Germany's two-goal advantage in injury time.

    Euro 2012 Results

    Tuesday June 7

    Azerbaijan 1-3 Germany
     Belarus 2-0 Luxembourg
     Sweden 5-0 Finland
     Bos-Herce 2-0 Albania
     Faroe Islands 2-0 Estonia
     San Marino 0-3 Hungary

    "It was important to win today and to end the season with the seventh win,'' Germany captain Philipp Lahm said.

    "It was a perfect season.''

    It was the youngest ever Germany side to play in a competitive game, with Lahm the oldest player at 27. A host of injuries forced Loew to play his captain in an unaccustomed role in defensive midfield.

    "It's very good news for German football that we have so many young players. That can only make us successful,'' said 21-year-old Thomas Mueller after his 18th international.


    In Stockholm, Ibrahimovic was a substitute after only recently recovering from an ankle injury but came on in the 25th as a replacement for the injured Ola Toivonen, with Sweden already 1-0 up through Kim Kallstrom's goal in the 12th.

    After taking the captain's armband, Ibrahimovic slotted a low finish into the bottom corner in the 31st following a slide-rule pass from Kallstrom.

    He then stroked the ball into an empty net four minutes later after Sebastian Larsson's cutback.

    The former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker clinched his hat trick with a free header at the back post from Kallstrom's inswinging 53rd-minute free kick, before setting up Emir Bajrami for Sweden's fifth in the 82nd. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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