Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Austria 2 - Ireland 2; Germany 4 - Kazakhstan 1

Germany welcomed Kazakhstan to Nuremburg as the two sides squared off for the second time in five days, with Germany having won the previous encounter 3-0.  Midway through the opening half, Germany were on their way.  Mesut Ozil laid the ball off for Marco Reus, who then ran unimpeded to the half circle, from where he finished with a rolling shot to make it 1-0 in favor of Germany.  Four minutes on, a cutting run by Philipp Lahm got the Germany fullback to the endline, and his pass back into play was knocked home by the lightning-quick reflex shot by Mario Goetze, putting the home side ahead by two goals now.  Five minutes after that, an Ozil short, dipping cross was pounded into the net by Ilkay Gundogan from six yards out to make it 3-0 Germany, which would double as the halftime score.

One minute after the restart, Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer tried to get cheeky and throw feints to shake off an encroaching Kazakh forward, but Neuer was dispossessed at his own half circle by Baurzhan Jolchiyev.  Genrikh Shmidtgal one-timed a shot at the empty net to close the gap to 3-1.  Germany did not suffer any further lapses in concentration.  In fact, in the final minute Gundogan hit a through ball to Reus that saw Reus finish with aplomb to end the scoring with a four goal to the home side.  Germany win 4-1 and look well on their way to Brasil 2014.

Ireland took to their home pitch in Dublin looking to vanquish Austria.  Ten minutes into the match, it were the Irish who were vanquished by high pressure from Austria.  Ciaran Clark (pictured, green) was under enormous pressure in defense, so much that he decided to skip two Austria midfielders who were covering him. However, Zlatko Junozovic (pictured, white #10) stripped him and the break was on.  Junozovic ran up the pitch before hit a square ball to an oncoming Martin Harnik (pictured, white #11) for the opening goal.  Emanuel Pogatetz overslid a tackle in the Austrian penalty area as Shane Long was cutting the ball back upfield.  Long was felled by the challenge, and Ireland had a chance to convert from the penalty spot, which they did.  Long found himself open with his back to goal with seven minutes left in the first half.  Long did the only reasonable thing to do in that situation, which was to backheel strongly toward the goal.  Unluckily for Long, the post was not kind and his shot bounced away.  In stoppage time, Jon Walters scored off a diving header from ten yards out on a corner kick to give Ireland a 2-1 lead at halftime.

James McLean nearly precipitated a third goal for Ireland midway through the second half as his inswinging cross was headed on goal from less than six yards out, but Austria goalkeeper Heinz Lindner rose quickly to punch the ball over his crossbar.  In stoppage time, Harnik found space to lay a ball off to David Alaba, who then hit a high dipping shot from the half circle that fell down just in time to cross under the Irish crossbar and break thousands of hearts in Dublin.  The match ends in a memorable 2-2 draw.

Germany 16 pts +15
Austria 8 pts +9
Sweden 8 pts +3
Ireland 8 pts -1
Kazakhstan 1 pts -13
Faroe Islands 0 pts -13

Marco Reus 23, 90
Mario Goetze 27
Ilkay Gundogan 32

Genrikh Shmidtgal 46

Martin Harnik 11
David Alaba 90+2

Jon Walters 25 PK, 45+1

Match Reports:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YkALKBRMns (Germany v. Kazakhstan)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmTUCXZ0i5s (Austria v. Ireland)

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