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Germany struggle past Georgia to qualify for Euro 2016

Having failed to do so in Dublin, Germany have finally punched their ticket for next summer's Euro 2016 tournament in France. The Georgians fought hard, but in the end Germany prevailed by the slimmest of margins.

Germany 2-1 Georgia
(Müller pen 50', Kruse 79' - Kankava 53')

Germany's final European qualifying match in Leipzig on Sunday night was a case in point about why you actually play the games. On paper, the

Georgians, currently at 110 in the FIFA rankings, hardly belonged on the same pitch as the No. 2-ranked reigning World Cup

champions.

However, when the referee blew the final whistle, the mood in the German camp may have been more relief than euphoria, as the home team came away with a hard-fought 2-1 victory. As it turned out, Germany could have even lost the match and gone through, due to Poland's victory over Ireland in Warsaw.

Three days after the Germans went down 1-0 to Ireland, coach Joachim Löw's men came out looking determined not just to dominate possession, but to actually test the opposing keeper far more than

had been the case in Dublin.

Thomas Müller was the first to force Georgian goalie Nukri Revishvili into action, as he parried away a well-placed shot from the edge of the box.

What followed was a first half of football in which the Germans created chance after chance in front of goal, but nothing that Revishvili couldn't handle. And that's not to mention the chances in which Germany's attackers, particularly Marco Reus, failed to hit the target.

The chances came despite the fact that Georgia, perhaps predictably, were playing much of the game with at least nine men behind the ball.

Fußball Euro 2016 Qualifikation Deutschland Georgien

Kankava's volley to pull the Georgians level was a thing of beauty

Neuer sharp when called upon

While Germany made by far the most attempts on goal, Revishvili had to be solid, but not spectacular. German keeper Manuel Neuer, on the other hand, hardly had to touch the ball, but in the 27th minute he mad the best save of the half, pushing a dangerous shot from Tornike Okriashvili beyond the post.

As the second half started, it was more of the same, with the Germans dominating possession, but unable to put the ball into the Georgian net.

The Leipzig crowd, though, onyl had to wait for a couple of minutes for the breakthrough. In the 48th Mesut Özil was fouled in the area and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Müller stepped up and buried his ninth goal of the qualifying campaign, sending the keeper the wrong way and stroking it into the low right corner.

Some German fans must have been thinking that this would open the floodgates, that the Georgians will would be broken - but they were to be disappointed.

The Georgians fought on and just three minutes later their captain, Jaba Kankava, equalized on just about as good a volley as you will ever see from just outside the box.

What followed was a period of five or six minutes when the Germans looked to be well back on their heels. This included an impressive individual move by Valeri Kazaishvili who barged right into the area but then put the ball over the net.

Germany's salvation began with the subbing off of the hapless Andre Schürrle for Max Kruse in the 76th minute. Not even three full minutes later, Kruse got onto the end of a nice pass into the area from Özil, finishing neatly for his fourth goal in his 14th international appearance.

From then on, the Germans did enough to secure the three points, allowing them to finish top of Group D with 22 points, just one ahead of Poland.

Shooting boots missing

Next summer, few will be thinking about the difficulties the Germans had scoring in their last couple of qualifiers. But in the aftermath of Sunday's contest, many, including goalkeeper Neuer, who had to make another couple of key saves in the second half, were left shaking their heads.

"In training it seems like 50 balls go into the net, but then we have trouble against a

team like Ireland or Georgia,"

he said shortly after the match. "We need that killer instinct in front of goal."

Coach Löw conceded that he too wasn't pleased with the last two games of qualifying, even though Germany did ultimately finish first in the group. However, as the television interviewer noted, he and his squad now have several months to work out the kinks in time for Euro 2016 in France.

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