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Ireland loss sends Germany through


Mesut Ozil struck two minutes into stoppage time against Ireland (AP)

Mesut Ozil struck two minutes into stoppage time against Ireland (AP)

Mesut Ozil struck two minutes into stoppage time against Ireland (AP)

Mesut Ozil put the seal on Germany's passage to Brazil as a 3-0 victory over Ireland ensured their presence at the World Cup finals.

The Arsenal midfielder struck in stoppage time at the end of the game to round off a 3-0 win which ensured that Joachim Low's Group C leaders cannot be caught with a game to spare after taking their points tally to 25 from a possible 27.

Sami Khedira set the ball rolling with a deflected 12th-minute effort from distance, but it was not until Chelsea forward Andre Schurrle converted Toni Kroos' pass from close range 13 minutes after the restart that the points were assured.

Indeed, the game might have turned out very differently had Ireland, for whom goalkeeper David Forde was superb, enjoyed slightly better fortunate in a flurry of activity either side of half-time.

Defender Ciaran Clark, the man who was clipped by Khedira's goal-bound shot, almost made amends in first-half injury time with a header which came back off the crossbar, and lone striker Anthony Stokes caught the Germans cold just 17 seconds into the second half with a shot which flew just wide.

Ireland at least restored a measure of pride a day short of a year since they were taken apart by Germany at the Aviva Stadium in a 6-1 rout which very nearly cost Giovanni Trapattoni his job during the days which followed.

Trapattoni did depart last month after successive defeats by Sweden and Austria, the two sides with whom they were realistically competing for second place from the off.

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His replacement is yet to be appointed, but, if he was watching as events unfolded at the Rhein Energie Stadion, he would have been impressed with the kind of organisation and commitment which were a feature of the Italian's first four years at the helm.

Ireland will bring a disappointing campaign to a close at home to Kazakhstan on Friday already looking towards the Euro 2016 qualifiers which begin in September next year.

By contrast, the Germans head for Sweden knowing their job is done and they can start planning in earnest for an assault on World Cup glory.

King retained only four of the men who started against Austria last month, although he had no choice over suspended duo Richard Dunne and John O'Shea or the injured Robbie Keane, and only skipper for the night Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy survived from the mauling in Dublin.

He had worked all week on a system designed to frustrate the runaway group leaders and, while his 4-2-3-1 formation was not a surprise, the personnel he asked to fill some of those roles was.

Darron Gibson and Marc Wilson sat in front of the back four with a midfield trio of Kevin Doyle, McCarthy and Glenn Whelan playing behind lone striker Stokes.

The Celtic frontman was inevitably isolated for long periods, but Ireland's early focus was on solid defence, and the plan worked.

Or at least it did for 12 minutes until their luck ran out.

Stokes was guilty of giving the ball away too easily deep inside his own half and German skipper Philipp Lahm pounced to feed Khedira, whose shot took a decisive deflection off Clark and completely wrong-footed Forde.

But it was not until the final 10 minutes of the first half that the pressure started to tell.

Schurrle, who had earlier seen appeals for a penalty waved away after he appeared to get a nudge in the back from Whelan, powered a bullet header towards goal only to see Forde make a fine reaction save, and the Millwall went one better eight minutes before the break to turn away Thomas Muller's piledriver.

But Ireland were very nearly back in it in first half injury time when Gibson played a free-kick short to Whelan, whose cross was headed against the bar by Clark with Stokes miskicking as he attempted to volley home the rebound.

Ireland returned in determined mood and went close twice within the opening two minutes of the second half, Stokes firing just wide after running on to Doyle's knock-down and then forcing Manuel Neuer to tip over a dipping cross.

Stokes later missed the target from an unlikely angle after Neuer had unwisely left his line in pursuit, ultimately in vain, of a defence-splitting Whelan through-ball.

But the game was over when Schurrle controlled Kroos' deft 58th-minute pass and beat Forde with ease to make it 2-0.

Ireland might have got themselves back into the game with 17 minutes remaining but for a good double save by Neuer to deny first Stokes then Coleman, and Stokes and Clark both went close again in a late flurry.

However, Ozil had the last word when he ran on to Kroos' pass in stoppage time to complete the victory.

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