Lewandowski strikes again to leave Ireland in third

Ireland will have to negotiate a two-legged playoff if they are to reach Euro 2016, after falling victim to Robert Lewandowski on Sunday.

Three sides had designs on top spot in Group D heading into the final round of fixtures, but it was no surprise that this position is occupied by Germany even though the world champions were made to work for three points against Georgia. Thomas Muller fired Joachim’s Lowe’s side ahead, but having been pegged back it was substitute Max Kruse who scored a late winner.

At the same time Ireland travelled to Warsaw to face Poland, with both sides locked on 18 points and chasing automatic qualification. Grzegorz Krychowiak fired the hosts ahead on 13 minutes but Jon Walters levelled from the spot three minutes afterwards, but the Irish had no reply to Lewandowski’s 15th goal in six matches, just before half-time, which settled the affair.

The Republic will now face a two-legged playoff to qualify for the Finals next summer, while the Poles and Germany are there automatically. Speaking after narrowly missing out on confirming a place in France, O’Neill said: “Whoever we play, we will have as good a chance as them. We are still in there, we can still make it. We didn’t make it but we are still fighting strongly.”

Scotland, who conceded a late equaliser against Poland to end their chances of making the Finals last Thursday, at least ended their campaign in style with a 6-0 hammering of Gibraltar at the Estadio Algarve. Steven Fletcher scored a hat-trick for the visitors, with Chris Martin, Shaun Maloney and Steven Naismith also on target for Gordon Strachan’s fourth-placed side.

Northern Ireland, of course, had already clinched their place in the Finals when they eased past Greece 3-1 in Belfast. Following this memorable win, which secured their place in a major tournament for the first time since 1986, they set their sights on topping Group F, and they achieved this despite Finland cancelling Craig Cathcart’s opener out with a late equaliser in Helsinki.

Romania qualified for the Finals from the same group in second place, after a routine 3-0 win against the Faroe Islands. This result means Hungary, who lost 4-3 to Greece, are relying on reaching the tournament via a playoff place. It has been a disappointing campaign for the Greeks, yet they finally showed some spirit in Piraeus with two goals in the final 11 minutes.

Group I contains the lowest number of teams and therefore has no playoff place, meaning only the top two qualify. Portugal, who had already clinched top spot, ended their campaign with a 2-1 win over Serbia, and they will be joined in France by Albania who beat Armenia 3-0, and in doing so condemned Euro 92 winners Denmark to the beach next summer

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