Germany first for Euro 2008

Germany first for Euro 2008

PARIS – Germany became the first qualifier for the Euro 2008 finals on a night when heavyweights England, France and Italy kept on course to make it through to Austria and Switzerland.

It was a lacklustre 0-0 draw by Germany in the Republic of Ireland on Saturday night at Croke Park but it was enough to book their berth in the 16-team event. England earned a fifth consecutive 3-0 victory at home to Estonia, France’s Thierry Henry equalled the French record of Michel Platini with his 41st goal in a 6-0 victory in the Faroe Islands, and then Italy had a 2-0 victory over Georgia in Genoa.France’s win meant they were in third spot in a very tight Group B on 22 points, one point behind Italy, and two behind pool leaders Scotland.Scotland remained in pole position to qualify with an impressive 3-1 win at home to Ukraine at Hampden Park.Italy meanwhile thanked Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Grosso for goals either side of the break for their victory.The single point kept Germany top of Group D with 23 points to assure qualification, while the Irish are virtually out of the running for next June’s European championship finals.With three games still to play for Germany, this is the earliest a German team have ever qualified for a major tournament and they are favourites to win the group over the second-placed Czech Republic with Ireland in third.Steve Staunton’s Republic of Ireland side were beaten 1-0 in Stuttgart in September 2006 when the teams last met, but neither side could conjure a goal in a dull 90 minutes with precious little finishing.Germany were missing captain Michael Ballack, as the Chelsea midfielder has a prolonged recovery from ankle surgery, while striker Miroslav Klose, the top-scorer at last year’s World Cup, was out with a knee injury.”We are pleased to secure qualification and the team deserves praise,” said Germany’s head coach Loew, whose side face the Czechs in Munich on Wednesday.”We worked hard and showed a good attitude to come away with the draw.We have done well so far, but we aren’t amongst the best sides in Europe yet, we will have to work hard to achieve our goal of winning Euro 2008.”The England v Estonia Group E contest was over by half-time, an early strike by Shaun Wright-Phillips being followed by Rooney’s 13th goal for his country – his first outside of friendlies since Euro 2004 and an own goal by Estonia’s holding midfielder Taavi Rahn.It was a welcome boost for Rooney to break a long goal drought in competitive matches for his country.That 16-match barren run stretched back to a double strike against Croatia at Euro 2004, so there was an element of relief as the Manchester United star celebrated his 13th goal for England.England coach Steve McClaren said he was delighted to get the game effectively wrapped up early on.”It was vital we got the three points we did.We wanted the tempo high in the first 20 minutes.”McClaren also had high praise for the linking up of Michael Owen and Rooney, which had come been criticised on the lead-up to the match.”Michael needed a game, needed the run-out, needed the hour,” McClaren said.”Wayne Rooney had a point to prove and he proved it.He deserved his goal and it’s good to have him back.”The only downside for England was a serious-looking ankle injury to Ashley Cole and afterwards McClaren revealed the Chelsea fullback was a major doubt for Wednesday’s clash with Russia in Moscow.McLaren said: “We’re assessing it.It doesn’t look good at the moment.”It was no surprise that France earned a high-scoring victory in the Faroe Islands however Henry’s eighth-minute goal meant he equalled Platini’s record though Henry took 95 matches and Platini just 72 to earn his.”It’s amazing to equal a player like him (Platini),” Henry told French television station TF1.Henry added France had good young players and that it was a “pleasure” to see Karim Benzema (two goals) and Hatem Ben Arfa (scoring on his debut) find the net.Henry had scored his first goal for the Blues during the 1998 World Cup finals on home soil.He was a surprise call-up for the first match of the tournament but scored in the 3-0 victory over South Africa and in the same tournament scored twice against Saudi Arabia.It was in the eighth minute when Henry got the ball on the edge of the box, getting the better of a defender then shot with the inside of his right foot past Faroe Islands keeper Jakup Mikkelsen for France’s second goal.Nampa-AFPEngland earned a fifth consecutive 3-0 victory at home to Estonia, France’s Thierry Henry equalled the French record of Michel Platini with his 41st goal in a 6-0 victory in the Faroe Islands, and then Italy had a 2-0 victory over Georgia in Genoa.France’s win meant they were in third spot in a very tight Group B on 22 points, one point behind Italy, and two behind pool leaders Scotland.Scotland remained in pole position to qualify with an impressive 3-1 win at home to Ukraine at Hampden Park.Italy meanwhile thanked Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Grosso for goals either side of the break for their victory.The single point kept Germany top of Group D with 23 points to assure qualification, while the Irish are virtually out of the running for next June’s European championship finals.With three games still to play for Germany, this is the earliest a German team have ever qualified for a major tournament and they are favourites to win the group over the second-placed Czech Republic with Ireland in third.Steve Staunton’s Republic of Ireland side were beaten 1-0 in Stuttgart in September 2006 when the teams last met, but neither side could conjure a goal in a dull 90 minutes with precious little finishing.Germany were missing captain Michael Ballack, as the Chelsea midfielder has a prolonged recovery from ankle surgery, while striker Miroslav Klose, the top-scorer at last year’s World Cup, was out with a knee injury.”We are pleased to secure qualification and the team deserves praise,” said Germany’s head coach Loew, whose side face the Czechs in Munich on Wednesday.”We worked hard and showed a good attitude to come away with the draw.We have done well so far, but we aren’t amongst the best sides in Europe yet, we will have to work hard to achieve our goal of winning Euro 2008.”The England v Estonia Group E contest was over by half-time, an early strike by Shaun Wright-Phillips being followed by Rooney’s 13th goal for his country – his first outside of friendlies since Euro 2004 and an own goal by Estonia’s holding midfielder Taavi Rahn.It was a welcome boost for Rooney to break a long goal drought in competitive matches for his country.That 16-match barren run stretched back to a double strike against Croatia at Euro 2004, so there was an element of relief as the Manchester United star celebrated his 13th goal for England.England coach Steve McClaren said he was delighted to get the game effectively wrapped up early on.”It was vital we got the three points we did.We wanted the tempo high in the first 20 minutes.”McClaren also had high praise for the linking up of Michael Owen and Rooney, which had come been criticised on the lead-up to the match.”Michael needed a game, needed the run-out, needed the hour,” McClaren said.”Wayne Rooney had a point to prove and he proved it.He deserved his goal and it’s good to have him back.”The only downside for England was a serious-looking ankle injury to Ashley Cole and afterwards McClaren revealed the Chelsea fullback was a major doubt for Wednesday’s clash with Russia in Moscow.McLaren said: “We’re assessing it.It doesn’t look good at the moment.”It was no surprise that France earned a high-scoring victory in the Faroe Islands however Henry’s eighth-minute goal meant he equalled Platini’s record though Henry took 95 matches and Platini just 72 to earn his.”It’s amazing to equal a player like him (Platini),” Henry told French television station TF1.Henry added France had good young players and that it was a “pleasure” to see Karim Benzema (two goals) and Hatem Ben Arfa (scoring on his debut) find the net.Henry had scored his first goal for the Blues during the 1998 World Cup finals on home soil.He was a surprise call-up for the first match of the tournament but scored in the 3-0 victory over South Africa and in the same tournament scored twice against Saudi Arabia.It was in the eighth minute when Henry got the ball on the edge of the box, getting the better of a defender then shot with the inside of his right foot past Faroe Islands keeper Jakup Mikkelsen for France’s second goal.Nampa-AFP

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