Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 10 December 2019

Hat-trick hero Serge Gnabry says Germany are heading to Euro finals in buoyant mood after 6-1 thrashing of Northern Ireland

Low's side finish top of Group C ahead of the Netherlands, who record 5-0 win over Estonia, while Irish manager O'Neill sees worst fears realised in Frankfurt

Germany's Serge Gnabry and Niklas Stark after the win against Northern Ireland. AFP
Germany's Serge Gnabry and Niklas Stark after the win against Northern Ireland. AFP

Serge Gnabry said Germany will head to the Euro 2020 finals in confident mood after he claimed a hat-trick in their 6-1 rout of Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

Having already booked their berth at the Euro 2020 finals on Saturday by beating Belarus, the emphatic win means Germany finish top of Group C, two points ahead of the Netherlands.

The Dutch – who secured their own heavy victory win a 5-0 win over Estonia, with Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum scoring a hat-trick – also qualified last weekend, while Northern Ireland finish third and will go into the play-offs for the Euro 2020 finals.

This meant the match in Frankfurt was a dead rubber as third-placed Northern Ireland already knew they were heading for the play-offs in March.

Gnabry now has 13 goals in as many internationals as the Northern Irish were given a masterclass in finishing.

"We are playing some very, very good football," said Gnabry, who came off to a standing ovation on 80 minutes.

"We are going to the finals confident and with a good run behind us. The team is young, but we're all having a lot of fun."

His Bayern Munich team-mate Leon Goretzka finished with two goals before Dortmund winger Julian Brandt grabbed Germany's sixth goal late on.

"For us, this will be like a home European Championship in the group phase," said Goretzka, with Germany set to play their three group games in Munich at the Euro 2020 finals, which will be hosted by 12 cities across Europe.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill admitted his worst fears were realised as his weakened side were blown away, despite taking a shock early lead through Michael Smith – his first international goal.

With Jonny Evans out through illness and Jamal Lewis sidelined by a knee problem, Northern Ireland were missing vital Premier League experience at the back and found themselves overrun.

"It was a tough night," said O'Neill, who suffered his worst defeat since a 6-0 friendly loss to Holland in his second game in charge back in 2012.

"When you come into a game like this, when you're missing players, at the back of your mind you fear this may happen and unfortunately it did.

"We couldn't have got off to a better start, it was a great goal and we had some good pockets of play in the first half.

"The killer really is we're a minute from going in at half-time at 1-1 and by the 47th minute we're 3-1 down, and that's down to the quality of the opposition and a little bit of poor defending. Once we're 3-1 down it's difficult to get energy into the team.

"Gnabry was unplayable tonigh. Fantastic movement, fantastic finishing. For us, a double-header against the Netherlands and Germany without a full-strength squad, we don't have the depth to be able to deal with it."

Germany manager Joachim Low was delighted with his young side. "What I liked a lot was that after being 1-0 down with the very first shot at goal we were immediately playing up front and playing offensive football, and at no point did anybody really feel we were going to lose this," he said.

"I think we played for the full 90 minutes with full concentration and I think the team rewarded themselves for all the effort they put in.

"For the full 90 minutes we kept trying to score goals and we did score goals so that was really fun watching them play tonight."

In Group I, Christian Benteke and Kevin De Bruyne scored two goals each as Belgium thrashed Cyprus 6-1.

Belgium finish top of their pool with a perfect 10 wins from 10 games, scoring 40 goals in the process, as Yannick Carrasco and an own goal from Kypros Christoforou completed the rout of Cyprus.

Updated: November 20, 2019 12:06 PM

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