Germany hit Northern Ireland for six in their final game of EURO 2020 qualifying as they wrapped up top spot in Group C with a convincing victory at the Commerzbank Arena. Recap the action in DW's live blog!
Germany 6-1 Northern Ireland
(Smith 8' - Gnabry 20', 47', 60', Goretzka 43', 73', Brandt 90+1')
The year 2019 came to a successful end for Germany as Joachim Löw's side finished top of their group thanks to their most important player. Serge Gnabry struck a hat trick on a night went Germany overcame an early deficit to ease past an ultimately inferior opposition.
After Michael Smith scored a stunning long-range drive to send the already loud visiting fans into a frenzy of excitement, Germany eventually found a way back thanks to Gnabry's smart turn-and-shot.
Leon Goretzka slid in to convert Jonas Hector's low cross to give Germany a halftime lead, one which they added to just two minutes after the break thanks to that man Gnabry again. The Bayern Munich man drilled in a low shot in the box and suddenly the contest was over.
There was plenty more for the home crowd to cheer though. Gnabry tucked in a neat third to complete yet another memorable evening, then Goretzka added a superb low drive for his second. Despite a relatively subdued performance, Julian Brandt also got on the scoresheet with a lovely late goal.
As it happened:
Full-time verdict: Germany close out a turbulent calendar year with a convicing win over Northern Ireland. Smith's opener threated to upset the odds, but in the end only served to bring out the best in their hosts. Joachim Löw's side will take confidence from scoring six against a deep-lying and disciplined side, but their international class and quality made the difference tonight with Serge Gnabry sending his rising stock further through the roof.
90+1' GOAL (Brandt) - Six of the best for Germany as Brandt gets in on the goalscoring act with a fierce drive from inside the area that flies past Peacock-Farrell. That's the Dortmund man's third goal for Die Mannschaft.
88' - Amiri whips in a cross from wide on the right which Serdar can't control under pressure as he got his shot off from inside the area.
85' - Jonas Hector has produced a performance that has staked a strong claim as Germany's best left back. A great time to do it to given that Schulz and Halstenberg have added to the level of competition.
80' - The hat-trick hero Gnabry comes off to a rousing reception as Amiri enters the fray for the final ten minutes.
77' - Northern Ireland pick up a free-kick in a dangerous area, but the delivery is headed behind for a corner by Tah. The second set-piece is cleared, allowing Germany to break leading to Kimmich playing a devilish drilled pass across the face of goal.There were no takers though.
Snapshot from Frankfurt
73' GOAL! (Goretzka) - His final action of the evening is to add a fifth to Germany's tally as Goretzka lashes home from the edge of the area before coming off to be repalced by Serdar.
70' - The fourth goal and the handful of substitutions have taken the sting out of this game.
67' - With a three-goal cushion Germany are starting to test Northern Ireland from range. Goretzka is the latest to send an effort just past the post.
64' - It's finally happening! Niklas Stark is stripped off and ready to come on for Germany. At the ninth time of asking, the Hertha Berlin center back comes on to make his long-awaited Germany debut.
60' GOAL! (Gnabry) - Gnabry bags his hat-trick to move back reclaim his 100 per cent record at international with his 13th goal in his 13th game. He showed great strength to hold off the challenge of Flanagan before tucking the ball into the bottom corner from close range.
57' - Hector is on for a hat-trick of assists and would have gotten it if Gnabry was a more proficient headerer of the ball. Instead the aerial effort goes well wide.
53' - Another lovely chipped pass from Kroos finds Klostermann getting in behind. The Leipzig right-back's initial cross is blocked while his follow up is lashed into the side-netting.
52' - Kroos lines one up from range and has Peacock-Farrell at full stretch to tip it behind for a corner which is taken short and comes to nothing in the end as Northern Ireland again batton down the hatches.
49' - Northern Ireland try to break on the counter, but the pass through to Megennis is easy cut out by Can. The Juve man has looked decent at the back, but it's clear he's more comfortable further forward.
Snapshot from Frankfurt
47' GOAL (Gnabry) - A perfect start to the second half. Kroos clips a ball in behind for Klostermann who cuts it back to Gnabry. The Bayern forward needs one touch to control and another to produce a fierce haf-volley, bagging his brace and moving him onto eight goals in eight qualifiers.
We're back underway at the Commerzbank Arena. Can Germany secure top spot with a more convincing second-half performance.?
Half-time verdict: Germany snatch the lead on the stroke of half-time and will feel they deserve to lead given how dominant they've been against a deep-lying Northern Ireland side who have done their best to absorb pressure. The early goal from Smith on stoked the hosts' fires further and, as it stands, Germany are back on top of Group C.
43' GOAL! (Goretzka) - Two goals in two games for Goretzka who has done his chances of playing a prominent role at EURO 2020 no harm as he bundles home a goal in off the post from Hector's cross. That's two assists for the left-back tonight.
Snapshot from Frankfurt
40' - A reminder that as things stand Germany will not finish top of Group C on account of their inferior head-to-head record against the Netherlands, who are now 2-0 up againt Estonia.
37' - A tricky phase of play for Germany who are generating all the pressure, but not producing much end product.
34' - The hosts are having to be very patient with Kroos and Kimmich getting plenty of touches 30 yards from goal, but struggling to pick out team mates in threatening positions closer to goal.
31' - Germany are well and truly on the front foot here.
30' - Brandt's cross from the right wing almost causes a mix-up between Peacock-Farrell and Cathcart, but after the ball spills loose Northern Ireland are able to clear.
28' - Northern Ireland goalscorer Smith is really feeling it tonight as he skips past Hector's challenge with an audacious nutmeg before clipping in a cross with the outside of his boot. The visitors are starting to push back a little now.
26' - Germany have had 80 per cent possession so far and boast six shots on goal to Northern Ireland's two.
24' - The goal has changed little in the complexion of the game. Germany are still camped out in the Northern Ireland half with Magennis acting as the only outlet for the visitors.
20' GOAL (Gnabry) - What a hit! Goretzka finds Hector out wide. His early ball is behind Gnabry in the area, but the Bayern man produces a neat turn and finish that rockets into the back of the net. That's 11 goals in 13 games at international level for Gnabry now. Wow!
18' - CLOSE! Germany almost pull level through an own goal. A ball to the back post is played back across goal by Hector, and almost put beyond his own keeper by McNair.
17' - A lovely run from deep from Gündogan almost catches the visitors out, but his square ball fails to find a teammate.
16' - An update from this game. With a one-goal lead on their side, Northern Ireland are defending with a nine-man backline effectively and it's up to Germany to break them down.
14' - Update from the other game in Group C. The Netherlands are 1-0 up against Estonia thanks to a goal from Georginio Wijnaldum meaning they currently top the group.
11' - OFF THE POST! This game has come alive and Germany again go close to equalising as Hector's cross is deflected onto the post before the visitors scramble their lines clear.
10' - HUGE CHANCE! What a ball from Toni Kroos who clips a delightful pass in for Gnabry to run on to. One-on-one with Peacock-Farrell, the Bayern forward fails to turn the ball past the keeper.
8' - GOAL! (Smith) - Well that wasn't in the script! Toni Kroos heads clear from a Northern Ireland cross when the balls falls kindly to Michael Smith his connection is clean as he sends the ball flying into the bottom corner from 30 yards. A pure strike and his first ever goal at international level.
6' - The hosts first foray forward sees Klostermann's low cross easily blocked.
5' - Germany are having a lot of the ball, but it's very much a feeling out process.
3' - Steffen Freund is RTL co-commentator tonight and claims that Northern Ireland are "the perfect test for Germany" tonight. A tough opponent where the character Löw mentioned will be tested.
A golden night in Frankfurt
Kroos questions Germany's state of transition
Talking ahead of the game against Northern Ireland, Kroos looked at the bigger picture when asked whether Germany can be considered amongst the favorites at EURO 2020. "You need six or seven players playing at the highest level to win a tournament like the EUROs and we've got to see whether we're capable of that."
Jürgen Klinsmann talking to RTL: "We've got some young players with an enormous amount of talent, but in my experience you can only see how far along they've come at tournaments like the EUROs. It's about showing a huge amount of hunger and ambition. This is a squad that has grown, but there are still a lot of question marks. If the components come together then nothing they can certainly compete in the summer."
Joachim Löw talking to RTL: "I'm expecting a lot of crosses from Northern Ireland and Stark has only been able to train partially for the last couple of days. I really want to give Stark his debut so if I get the chance tonight I will."
Jürgen Klinsmann talking to RTL: "They've got to take it seriously and you can tell that they really want to win the group, but the challenge for the head coach is to get them past being content with their current sitution and want to compete to the peak of their powers."
Joachim Löw talking to RTL: "We want to win the game above all and clinch the group win. I want to see my players be more clinical in their actions. Ireland are a difficult opponent. They can't qualify directly anymore, but nevertheless they always play with a lot of power and we need to be ready to fight. It's about refining our character ahead of the summer."
Löw low on hope?
Joachim Löw has been quite candid in his assessment of Germany in recent weeks and admitted: "I don't see us as favorites at the EUROs." According to the World Cup winning head coach, England, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands are all further ahead of Germany in the pecking order.
The best of the rest?
A few of Germany's fringe players will be hoping to strengthen their case for a spot in Joachim Löw's final selection for EURO 2020.
Stark misses out again
No Germany player has had to wait as long to make their debut for Germany in the Joachim Löw era as Hertha Berlin's Niklas Stark. This is now the ninth time the centre-back has been in the squad and not in the starting line-up, but Löw is expecting "aerial challenges" and has opted on the side of caution given the fact that Stark only recently broke his nose.
CONFIRMED line-up - Northern Ireland:
Peacock-Farrell - Smith, Cathcart, Flanagan, Ferguson - Davis, C. Evans, Saville, McNair - Thomson, Magennis
CONFIRMED line-up - Germany:
Joachim Löw's makes four changes to the side that beat Belarus as Tah, Can, Hector and Brandt come into the starting line-up.
ter Stegen - Klostermann, Tah, Can, Hector - Kroos, Kimmich - Goretzka, Gündogan - Gnabry, Brandt
Hello and welcome...
...to live coverage of Germany vs Northern Ireland from the Commerzbank-Arena in Frankfurt (kick off 20:45 CET). Joachim Löw and Co. are closing out their EURO 2020 campaign and looking to secure top spot in Group C against a side they've beaten in their last eight meetings.