Germany 3 (Schweinsteiger 20, Gotze 22, Muller 74)
First-half goals from Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gotze within a minute of each other gave the visitors the lead, and Thomas Muller finished the game for Germany over Kazakhstan on Friday evening. While Kazakhstan looked up for the fight in the opening minutes of the contest, doing their best to harry their opponents, the gulf in class between the two was obvious from the off. An early burst forward from Gotze came to nothing, while Sami Khedira had an effort charged down.
Marcel Schmelzer looked willing to get down the left and almost laid one on a plate for Julian Draxler, who could only tap the ball wide from close range, while Mesut Ozil drove a free kick into the wall when he should have done better. Andrey Sidelnikov then got himself behind a Draxler pop shot from distance, but the visitors really should have taken the lead when a masterful flick from Schweinsteiger set up Gotze, who contrived to skew a shot high and wide a matter of yards from goal.
In the end, though, the inevitable goal came. Ozil floated in from the left-hand side, drove a pass to Schweinsteiger, who took the ball over his man brilliantly and shot. It appeared to take the slightest deflection off Thomas Muller, but the Germany vice-captain claimed it nonetheless. Within seconds, it was two. Khedira drove down the byline and pulled it back to Muller, who was promptly crowded out, but forced it back to Gotze, and the Dortmund star applied the finish to get his goal.
For the rest of the first half, it was plain sailing. Draxler was withdrawn due to a head injury and replaced by Lukas Podolski, who combined well with Schmelzer, while Ozil, Schweinsteiger, Gotze and Muller played for possession, rarely surrendering the ball. After the break, the Germans made a slightly lax start giving the home fans something to cheer about, but, while Kazakhstan’s industry down the lines was praiseworthy, they struggled to craft any real chances.
Bauyrzhan Dzholchiyev sent an effort straight into Manuel Neuer’s hands, and Sergey Ostapenko’s looming presence forced Muller to turn a corner over his own bar, but in truth, the visitors looked more likely to score than concede. Podolski had three efforts charged down in quick succession on the break, while the Kazakh wall stood firm to block another free kick, this time from Schweinsteiger.
Germany pressed and probed but the hosts were happy to drop back and deprive them of space. And their conservative approach almost paid dividends. Ulan Konysbaev rattled the woodwork with an extraordinary strike, before Neuer made an acrobatic save to deny Heinrich Schmidtgal. But the two chances seemed to wake up Germany, who charged up the other end and added a third through Muller after some neat build-up play from Ozil and Gotze to secure the victory. The two sides meet again in Nurnberg on Tuesday.
Austria 6 (Hosiner 8, 20, Ivanschitz 28, Junuzovic 77, Alaba 78, Garics 82)
Faroe Islands 0
In what was a very successful outing on Friday evening, the Austrian national team defeated group rivals the Faroe Islands. A very strong performance saw Austria go ahead in merely the 8th minute by way of Philipp Hosiner who added another goal in the 20th minute.
Andreas Ivanschitz then scored the third goal only eight minutes after the second one fell with a beautiful left footed strike that beat the keeper, Gunnar Nielsen, who did his best to stop the ball and even got a slight touch on it.
It would be another 50 minutes of playing time before the next goal fell. Austria continued to press and easily dominated the game. Finally in the 77th minute Zlatko Junuzovic scored and a single minute later David Alaba capped off an impressive performance with a goal of his own. Gyorgy Garics added a goal in the 82nd minute.
6-0 on the night Austria dominated from start to finish and proved they can challenge for 2nd place in this qualifying group.
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Rep of Ireland 0
Frustrated Sweden stuttered to a 0-0 draw against a much-improved Ireland side that saw them slip further behind leaders Germany. The Swedish attack led by captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic failed to click, barely threatening keeper David Forde as the visitors, who suffered a humiliating 6-1 defeat at home to the Germans in October, were more compact, organised and calm in possession.
Ireland had the best of the early chances, Jon Walters heading weakly wide from a Robbie Keane cross and Shane Long blazing over after a strong solo run from midfield. It took Ibrahimovic, who often had to drop deep to seek possession, 36 minutes to register a shot which he followed up by heading narrowly wide from the subsequent corner. The second half brought more frustration for Sweden, who had no shortage of possession but struggled to do anything with it.
Second placed Sweden, play Slovakia in a friendly on Tuesday and Ireland are in fourth spot before facing third-placed Austria, who also have seven points, on Tuesday.
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