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Dublin: 0 °C Saturday 25 November, 2017
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Good afternoon, everyone.

Welcome to our coverage of the deciding games in Group C.

Our main focus will be Northern Ireland’s clash with Germany where a win for Michael O’Neill’s side would take them into the round of 16.

But we’ll be keeping an eye on how Poland fare against Ukraine too.

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O’Neill keeps faith with the side that conjured that superb 2-0 victory over Ukraine. That means Will Grigg remains on the bench – as does Kyle Lafferty. Conor Washington will again lead the line with Stuart Dallas and Jamie Ward out wide.

For Germany, Mario Gomez is handed a start after Mario Gotze was left frustrated against Poland. The big attacker certainly gives them more variety – something they badly lacked last time out.

Joshua Kimmich is also included by the Germans.

It’s only the youngster’s second cap but he’s really highly-regarded.

 

He memorably got a tongue-lashing from Pep Guardiola within minutes of full-time in a Bundesliga game last season.

“I told him that he’s perhaps one of the best centerbacks in the world,” Guardiola said later.

“He’s got the desire, the will, the passion. He’s got absolutely everything.”

Source: Slava Shakaryan/YouTube

Even the German fans are signing it inside the Parc des Princes.

Just on the Will Grigg thing…I’d imagine he’s a little embarrassed by everyone knowing who he is but only because of a song.

2Mins

Early bit of sweeping-keeping from Neuer. What a character.

Though in the pantheon of crazy German goalkeepers, you’d do well to better this guy.

3Mins

Early warning as Kimmich gets down the right and Khedira’s pass to pick him out is just a little over-cooked.

5Mins

By the way, one great story surrounding this game is Jonny Calderwood from Antrim who’s the head groundsman at the Parc des Princes.

Flag 8Mins

VERY CLOSE! Superb stop from McGovern as Ozil stabs a magnificent pass through for Muller, who has to score – 1v1 and just the keeper to beat from close range. But he puts it straight at the keeper, who smothers.

9Mins

And Northern Ireland break instantly with Washington. But he’s got to hold it up and wait as Davis busts a gut to get up in support. As the midfielder arrives in the area, Washington tries to jink inside and loses possession. A big chance.

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VERY CLOSE! O’Neill’s side are being opened up very easily here. This time it’s Ozil who scuffs the effort close to goal as it rebounds off a Northern Ireland defender and out for a corner.

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VERY CLOSE! This is alarming. It’s Gotze who tries his luck this time, popping up in the area and finding himself 1v1 with McGovern. But the keeper makes another stop. The rebound falls to Kimmich whose attempted chip is high, wide and handsome.

15Mins

Germany’s full-backs are also playing so high. A little bit like Ireland’s game with Belgium. The North are being pinned back and can’t give themselves much relief.

18Mins

Taken off against Poland and already quiet here. Lucky escape, Liverpool fans?

19Mins

It’s Hector getting up from left-back again to send in a low cross. Gomez really should do better as it kicks up off the turf and Ozil’s subsequent header is tame.

24Mins

UKR v POL: Still scoreless in the group’s other game but it’s been all-Poland, really.

Here’s the table as it stands.

Here’s the table as it stands:

Table

Flag 25Mins

VERY CLOSE! Another chance and it’s Muller this time. A brilliant chest pass from Gomez sends him through, he settles himself but pulls it ever so slightly and it rolls agonisingly past the far post.

26Mins

Well, Ward had a chance to play in Washington as the North try and break. But he holds on far too long and ends up having to shoot himself from distance. It’s a tame effort and Neuer easily collects.

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VERY CLOSE! It’s Muller again with a superb header and it comes off the outside of the upright. Another cross from the flank, he dives in bravely and stoops to conquer. But he’s an inch away from the opening goal.

32Mins

Well, it was coming for quite a while. Again Muller is central to it. He’s slipped through the middle and McGovern comes out to try and shut him down while green shirts flock around the Bayern man. He takes it around the keeper slightly before coming back inside and seeking the support of Gomez, who knocks it to the net.

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VERY CLOSE! Wow. Germany have been superb and so different. There’s been a directness and a swiftness to their style today. Ozil combines with Hector before cutting back brilliantly. Muller opens his body up and sends the side-foot shot towards the far corner but it comes back off the crossbar.

41Mins

Another chance for Gomez. The ball comes across his body but he makes a mess of it and doesn’t connect properly. Immediately he looks at the turf but the surface had nothing to do with it.

45Mins

Well, that was one-way traffic and the North are incredibly fortunate to only be one goal down.

Muller hit the woodwork twice while Michael McGovern had to make a couple of decent saves.

Finally, it was Gomez who broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark, loitering in the danger area as Muller teed him up.

In truth, it’s been men against boys.

When O’Neill’s side have managed to relieve the pressure and get forward, Washington is inevitably isolated and support can’t get up quick enough.

But it’s all about Germany’s control and the way they’re just strangling Northern Ireland high up the pitch. Their midfield is in complete control and with full-backs that are essentially playing as wing-backs, they have bodies on the flanks as well as through the middle.

If there is an early goal for Jogi Low’s side after the restart, this could be a big win.

50Mins

Difficult situation for O’Neill now. You’d have to feel he’ll try and keep the score down and take the chance of scraping through as one of the best third-placed teams. But that will mean an anxious wait to see how the other groups finish up.

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VERY CLOSE! McGovern is there again to deny Gotze after Kimmich plays a superb ball to the far post. Then, moments later, the ball is slipped wide left. The low cross comes in and there’s Gotze to slide it to the net…but he doesn’t. He goes at it with his right foot for some reason and puts it the wrong side of the upright.

Flag 55Mins

UKR v POL: ‘Kuba’ Błaszczykowski came on at half-time and he’s netted the opener for Poland after 54 minutes. It doesn’t change much – just reaffirms Poland’s second place in the group.

Flag 57Mins

SUBSTITUTION! Schurrle (on) – Gotze (out)

Another uninspiring performance from Gotze and he’s withdrawn early for the second successive game.

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CLOSE! Khedira strides forward from midfield and lines up the low strike. McGovern gets down and makes the stop and on the rebound, it kicks up just a little too high for Gomez to get over it and send his header to the net.

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SUBSTITUTION! Lafferty (on) – Washington (off)

Change up front and could the big man grab a goal here?

62Mins

Fortunate for Jamie Ward as Hector cuts inside. The foul takes place right on the edge of the area.

63Mins

Free-kick routine is closely watched by the North and Corry Evans gets out to block Muller’s shot.

68Mins

McGovern has been excellent but think Real are doing okay with Keylor Navas.

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SUBSTITUTION! Schweinsteiger (on) – Khedira (off)

Ol’ Dirty Basti is on and looking for his second goal of the tournament after netting against Ukraine in the opener.

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SUBSTITUTION! Magennis (on) – Ward (off)

O’Neill makes his second change and it’s an attacking one.

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SUBSTITUTION! Howedes (on) – Boateng (off)

The first-choice centre-back may be carrying a knock here and is rightfully replaced as a precaution.

78Mins

Everything has just gone into a lull here. This suits both teams. A low-scoring defeat for Northern Ireland is certainly making the best of a bad situation.

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VERY CLOSE! What a save that is from McGovern. Kimmich does so well on the right. He cuts inside and lofts in a cross to the far post. Gomez gets up so well and sends the header low and to the far corner but the keeper conjures a spectacular, finger-tip stop to touch it away from goal.

Flag 84Mins

SUBSTITUTION! McGinn (on) – C. Evans (off)

Final change for O’Neill. Does he think his side could still nick something here?

85Mins

That switch means Will Grigg – the darling of the stands – won’t be appearing.

That’s a really good result for O’Neill’s side, relatively.

It could’ve been a real hammering but for the woodwork and their goalkeeper Michael McGovern who was inspired.

Germany took their foot off the gas after the break and knew the game was in the bag though they still went close a few more times.

They’ve topped the group without conceding a goal and they approached this game in a different way with Gomez as a focal point.

Their first-half display was excellent and they created so much and that will give them plenty of confidence.

Thanks for staying with us for our coverage. We’re just about to start our liveblog of the finale to Group D so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Plenty of reaction still to come on the site throughout the evening too.

About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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