LONDON: World champions Germany along with Poland,Romania and Albania successfully reached Euro 2016 as the final round of qualifying matches continued on Sunday.
Max Kruse came off the bench to score the goal that sent Germany through as Group D winners with a 2-1 victory over Georgia in Leipzig.
After wasting a host of early chances, Joachim Low’s side were becoming frustrated after Jaba Kankava cancelled out a Thomas Muller penalty with a stunning strike.
Poland held on to see off the Republic of Ireland 2-1 and clinch the second automatic spot in next year’s finals in France, leaving Martin O’Neill’s men in a play-off .
Robert Lewandowski’s 15th goal in his last six games for club and country handed the home side victory at the Narodowy Stadium and automatic qualification.
Grzegorz Krychowiak had given the home side a 13th-minute lead which Jonathan Walters cancelled out from the penalty spot three minutes later, but Lewandowski’s intervention as the first-half drew to a close ultimately proved decisive as John O’Shea was sent off for a second bookable offence in injury time.
Constantin Budescu struck twice and Alexandru Maxim was also on target as Romania secured their spot with a 3-0 victory in the Faroe Islands.
Budescu opened the scoring in the fourth minute in rain-soaked Torshavn and added another with a cross-shot on the stroke of half-time.
The Faroes did make life difficult for the visitors but substitute Maxim eased nerves seven minutes from time, sending Romania through as Group F runners-up behind Northern Ireland with an unbeaten record.
Albania also qualified as runners-up in Group I, beating Armenia 3-0 to advance to their first major tournament.
Northern Ireland were denied a seventh win of their triumphant campaign, but a point in Finland was still enough to see them break new ground by winning Group F.
In doing so they held off Romania and became the first fifth seed in European qualifying history to finish top of the pile.
Craig Cathcart looked to have delivered even better when he headed home a maiden international goal in the first half but, after a lethargic display, Finland nicked a 1-1 draw three minutes from time through Paulus Arajuuri.
Thursday’s win over Greece had already guaranteed a trip to France next summer, but manager Michael O’Neill was desperate to finish the job as pool winners.
Hungary’s hopes of a top-two finish ended as Greece finally stirred to claim a remarkable 4-3 victory in Piraeus – although the third-placed team with the best record will automatically qualify, the result of which will be known on Tuesday following the final fixtures.
Kostas Mitroglou and Panagiotis Kone struck in the last 11 minutes as the 2004 champions came from behind to win for the first time in their Group F qualifying campaign.
Portugal concluded their qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win in Serbia, who finished the game with nine men as Aleksandar Kolarov and Nemanja Matic were shown red.
With their place in next summer’s finals already assured, Portugal coach Fernando Santos allowed talisman Cristiano Ronaldo extra time off before returning to club side Real Madrid.
Ronaldo’s former Manchester United team-mate Nani tapped in the rebound from a saved Danny shot to give the Group I winners a fifth-minute lead.
Zoran Tosic equalised an hour later but Serbia were not level for long as Joao Moutinho’s delightful curling shot after 78 minutes restored Portugal’s lead.
Steven Fletcher scored his second Group D hat-trick against Gibraltar asScotland concluded their failed campaign with an easy 6-0 win over the section minnows at the Estadio Algarve in Faro.
Gordon Strachan’s makeshift side – seven changes from the one that started in the 2-2 draw against Poland on Thursday night which ended their hopes of reaching France next summer – took a two-goal lead into the interval after Chris Martin’s first international goal was followed by a wonderful Shaun Maloney strike.
Fletcher, who scored three in the 6-1 win over Gibraltar at Hampden in March, scored twice in four minutes after the break and then grabbed another with a fine 85th-minute finish before Steven Naismith, on for Martin, made it 6-0 in added time.