Of all of the groups in the qualifying competition for next year's European Championship in France, perhaps none were more competitive than Group D. Featuring a fierce competition between reigning World Cup champs Germany and an on-fire Poland national team-not to mention the two highest-scoring players in the entire qualifying competition-Group D was electrifying, but ultimately it was to be that Germany and Poland secure Euro 2016 spot.
The Group Standings
Germany took the edge in the final group standings, finishing the qualifying competition with seven wins, one draw, and two losses-for a point total of 22. Poland, meanwhile, were one point behind, with fewer wins (6) and losses (1), but three draws.
The Republic of Ireland rounded out the top three, with 18 points. They'll compete in the playoffs, against the other third-placed teams, for a spot in Euro 2016 finals. The rest of Group D, meanwhile-national football teams from Scotland, Georgia, and Gibraltar-have officially been eliminated from contention.
The Final Weekend
The Euro 2016 qualifying competition wrapped up this weekend, after having lasted 13 months. Group D, which kicked off on September 7th of last year, played its final games on Thursday, October 8th and Sunday, October 11th.
After Thursday's matches, it looked as if the Republic of Ireland might have a chance of passing either Germany, or Poland, or both. Both of the top two teams in Group D had rough games on October 8th, with Germany losing 0-1 to Republic of Ireland and Poland drawing 2-2 with Scotland. In the latter game, Robert Lewandowski rescued the Polish side from a loss at the last minute, netting his second goal of the match at 90+4. Thursday also saw Georgia crushing Gibraltar 4-0, but both soccer teams had already failed to qualify for the finals.
On Sunday, October 11th, though, both Germany and Poland won their final qualifying games to secure spots in Euro 2016. The German side beat Georgia 2-1 to take first place while Poland topped the Republic of Ireland 2-1 to retain their second-place position. Scotland, despite their failure to qualify for the playoffs, ended the qualifiers in strong fashion, with a 6-0 win against Gibraltar.
Neither Germany nor Poland were in perfect form throughout the Euro 2016 qualifying competition. Germany may have won the World Cup last year, and may currently be ranked as the number two team on the planet by FIFA, but they were surprisingly vulnerable in the qualifiers.
Indeed, in their first three matches last fall, the Germans lost one game (0-2 against Poland) and drew another (1-1 with the Republic of Ireland) for a dreadful start to the qualifying competition. The football squad eventually rallied and won five games in a row, prior to losing the Ireland match on October 8th. Even as the Group D winners, though, Germany had a weaker record than many of the other European teams competing in other groups-such as England, Spain, Austria, and Portugal.
If Group D's top two teams had to weather a few more defeats than the other leaders in the Euro 2016 qualifying competition, at least they did so in high-scoring fashion. Poland's Robert Lewandowski ended the qualifiers as the overall top scorer, with 13 goals in 10 fixtures. Germany's Thomas Muller was second, with nine. Other Polish players like Arkadiusz Milik (seven goals) and Kamil Grosicki (four goals) also acquitted themselves well. Germany, meanwhile, had three players with three goals (Mario Gotze, Max Kruse, and Andre Schurlle) to support Muller's standout performance.
Poland ended the qualifiers as the highest-scoring team, with 33 goals overall. Of course, they'll need better defense if they are going to contend for the Euro 2016 title: they allowed 10 goals, eight more than Romania's tournament best. With Robert Lewandowski playing in such top form, though, could Poland possibly contend for their first-ever European Championship title next year?
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