FRANKFURT AM MAIN: Serge Gnabry said Germany will head to the Euro 2020 finals in confident mood after he claimed a hattrick in their 6-1 rout of Northern Ireland on Tuesday that secured them top spot in Group C.
Having already booked their berth at the Euro 2020 finals on Saturday by beating Belarus, the emphatic win in Frankfurt means Germany finish their qualifying campaign two points ahead of the Netherlands.
The Dutch also qualified last weekend, while Northern Ireland finish third and will go into the playoffs for the Euro 2020 finals.
Gnabry now has 13 goals in as many internationals as the Northern Irish were given a masterclass in finishing.
“We are playing some very, very good football,” said Gnabry, who came off to a standing ovation on 80 minutes.
“We are going to the finals confident and with a good run behind us. The team is young, but we’re all having a lot of fun.”
His Bayern Munich teammate Leon Goretzka finished with two goals before Dortmund winger Julian Brandt grabbed Germany’s sixth goal late on.
“For us, this will be like a home European Championship in the group phase,” beamed Goretzka, with Germany set to play their three group games in Munich at the Euro 2020 finals, which will be hosted by 12 cities across Europe.
This was Gnabry’s second hattrick for Germany. He also scored three goals on his 2016 debut in an 8-0 mauling of minnows San Marino.
Gnabry also hit four goals in Bayern’s 7-2 romp at Tottenham in the Champions League last month.
Northern Ireland took a shock lead when a poor clearance by Toni Kroos fell to Michael Smith who drilled home his shot from outside the area after only seven minutes.
The Germans quickly recovered and Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan hit the post just before Gnabry claimed his first goal.
He took a touch on the edge of the area before spinning and firing past Irish goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell on 19 minutes.
The Germans went into the break 2-1 up after Goretzka poked the ball over the line via the upright on 42 minutes.
Germany maintained their impressive pace and Gnabry grabbed his second just 66 seconds after half time.
The former Arsenal winger slipped his marker and fired home after a good cross from wingback Lukas Klostermann.
The Germans were cruising and Gnabry claimed his hattrick on the hour by holding off Irish centreback Tom Flanagan before coolly slotting the ball home from a tricky angle.
Not to be outdone, Goretzka notched his second as yet another Germany move left the Irish defence clutching at straws.
Northern Irish midfielder Paddy McNair intercepted a ball from Kroos, but knocked it only as far as Goretzka who picked his spot in the back of the net on 73 minutes.
With time almost up, Brandt completed the rout by finishing off a Kroos pass with the Northern Irish defence again exposed to delight home fans.