Group C: Germany continue on road or Rio with win over Kazakhs

Ireland’s Group C rivals made short work of their opponents in Astana.

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GERMANY TOOK ANOTHER step toward qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a comprehensive 3-0 win — in Ireland’s Group C — over Kazakhstan tonight.

Bastian Schweinsteiger opened the scoring 20 minutes into the match at the Astana Arena, with Mario Goetze doubling the lead just two minutes later.

Schweinsteiger’s Bayern Munich colleague Thomas Mueller added a third with 14 minutes remaining, as Joachim Loew’s men tightened their grip at the top of the pool.

While Kazakhstan looked up for the fight in the opening minutes of the contest, doing their best to harry their opponents, the gulf in class between the two was obvious from the off. An early burst forward from Goetze came to nothing, while Sami Khedira had an effort charged down.

Marcel Schmelzer looked willing to get down the left and almost set up Julian Draxler, who could only tap the ball wide from close range, and Mesut Oezil drove a free kick into the wall when he should have done better.

Andrey Sidelnikov got himself behind a Draxler pop shot from distance, but the visitors really should have taken the lead when a masterful flick from Schweinsteiger set up Goetze, who contrived to skew a shot high and wide a matter of yards from goal.

In the end, though, the inevitable goal came. Oezil floated in from the left-hand side, drove a pass to Schweinsteiger, who took the ball over his man brilliantly and shot. It appeared to take the slightest deflection off Mueller, but the Germany vice-captain claimed it nonetheless.

Two minutes later, and the away side had a second. Khedira drove down the by-line and pulled it back to Mueller, who was crowded out, but he did force it back to Goetze, and the Dortmund star applied the finish to get his goal.

Draxler had been withdrawn due to a head injury as early as the 19th minute and replaced by Lukas Podolski, who combined well with Schmelzer, while Oezil, Schweinsteiger, Goetze and Mueller retained possession well, rarely surrendering the ball.

After the break, Germany made a slightly lax start, giving the home fans something to cheer about for a change, but, while Kazakhstan’s industry down the lines was praiseworthy, they struggled to craft any real chances.

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Bauyrzhan Dzholchiyev sent an effort straight into Manuel Neuer’s hands, and Sergey Ostapenko’s looming presence forced Mueller to turn a corner over his own bar, but the visitors always looked more likely to score than concede.

Podolski had three efforts charged down in quick succession on the break, while the Kazakh wall stood firm to block another free kick, this time from Schweinsteiger.

Germany pressed and probed but the hosts were happy to drop back and deprive them of space.

And their conservative approach almost paid dividends. Ulan Konysbaev rattled the woodwork with an extraordinary strike, before Neuer made an acrobatic save to deny Heinrich Schmidtgal. The two chances seemed to wake Germany up, who charged up the other end and added a third through Mueller after some neat build-up play from Oezil and Goetze.

These two sides clash again in Nuremberg on Tuesday.

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