November 19, 2019 / 9:56 PM / 21 days ago

Germany crush Northern Ireland with Gnabry treble to top group

FRANKFURT, Germany (Reuters) - Serge Gnabry scored a hat-trick as already-qualified Germany came from a goal down to crush Northern Ireland 6-1 in their final Euro 2020 qualifier to finish top of Group C on Tuesday.

Soccer Football - Euro 2020 Qualifier - Group C - Germany v Northern Ireland - Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt, Germany - November 19, 2019 Germany's Serge Gnabry celebrates scoring their fourth goal to complete his hat-trick REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

It was a successful end to a difficult year for Germany, seeking to overhaul the team after last year’s shock World Cup first-round exit and Nations League relegation.

They qualified, having won seven of their eight qualifiers and losing once to the Netherlands.

With qualification already sealed after Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Belarus, Germany showed no nerves and quickly cancelled out Michael Smith’s shock eighth-minute opener for the visitors with Gnabry’s fine turn and shot in the 19th.

Leon Goretzka’s 43rd minute goal put Germany ahead before Gnabry then drilled in their third straight after the restart.

The 24-year-old winger completed his hat-trick on the hour to take his tally to 13 goals in 13 internationals. Goretzka then fired in from 20 metres to crown his own fine performance.

Germany, who also hit the woodwork, looked sharp despite a number of absentees, with the players combining well and offering fans in Frankfurt a good display.

“It works well. We have a young team, understand each other well and we have good performances,” Gnabry told reporters. “We had a good finish to the year and are showing good football.

“I am happy with my goals. I play more up front with the national team and I enjoy it. As for Euro 2020 we are going with confidence into the tournament.”

Julian Brandt completed the rout in stoppage time as the Germans finished on 21 points, two ahead of the second-placed Dutch, while Northern Ireland ended the qualifying campaign in third place on 13 points and will go into the playoffs.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris

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