Germany have booked their ticket to the 2014 World Cup. A 3-0 victory over Ireland in Cologne was all that was needed to send the Germans to the tournament for the 18th time.
It was all Germany from start to finish in Cologne on Friday evening. The hosts were organized and created far more chances on goal, despite playing with a somewhat experimental lineup.
With regular strikers Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose out injured, Joachim Löw elected to start Arsenal playmaker Mesut Özil upfront in a false-nine role. It was a move that paid off for the German coach. His side dominated possession, hardly letting the ball out of the Irish half.
Germany pulled ahead in the 12th minute when Sami Khedira's shot from the top of the box was deflected past a wrong-footed David Forde and into the net. It would prove to be the only goal of the first half, but just one of 13 attempts in that period.
Again and again, Germany's attacking midfield trio of Andre Schürrle, Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller tested Forde, but the Irish goalkeeper was fantastic between the posts, and impressively kept the score line at 1-0.
Germany extend lead
In the second half it was only a matter of time until the Germans doubled their lead. Forde could not keep the score close forever, and in the 58th minute Schürrle (pictured above) made it 2-0. Kroos found him in the middle of the box, and the Chelsea winger turned and fired a low shot into the corner of the net.
Not long later the Irish had perhaps their best opportunity of the match when they caught Manuel Neuer far off his line. Anthony Stokes picked up the ball near half field and managed to get past Neuer from quite a distance outside the box, but he set himself up for a difficult long-range shot and was unable to capitalize on the German goalkeeper's mistake.
With the match all but wrapped up, Mesut Özil marked the occasion of his 50th cap by scoring a third goal in stoppage time. Kroos again played creator, sending a ball into the box for Özil, who chipped over Forde to make it 3-0.
The result means Germany, who have still never failed to qualify for a major tournament, are headed to World Cup 2014 in Brazil. The latest qualification round in Group C, which also includes Sweden, Kazakhstan, Austria and the Faroe Islands, was particularly impressive. With one more game to play, the Germans have picked already 25 points from eight wins and a draw.
"It was all together a very good qualification from nine games," Löw told broadcaster ARD after the match.
In other Group C action, Sweden secured second place in the group with a 2-1 home win over Austria, while the Faroe Islands drew Kazakhstan 1-1 at home.