Germany qualify with Dublin draw

Germany became the first side to book their place at UEFA EURO 2008 next summer after a 0-0 draw with Republic of Ireland at Dublin's Croke Park on Saturday evening.

The point keeps Germany top of Group D on 23 points, which is enough to assure them of qualification, while the Irish are virtually out of the running for a spot at next June's continental championship in Austria and Switzerland.

It is the earliest a German team has ever qualified for a major tournament and they are favourites to go on and win the group ahead of second-placed Czech Republic.

Steve Staunton's Republic of Ireland side were beaten 1-0 in Stuttgart in September 2006 when the teams last met, but neither side could conjure a goal during 90 minutes at Croke Park.

Germany were missing captain Michael Ballack, who is recovering from ankle surgery, while striker Miroslav Klose, the top-scorer at last year's FIFA World Cup™, was out with a knee injury. Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger was an early casualty when he clashed with Wigan Athletic midfielder Kevin Kilbane competing for a header, and the German was replaced by Bayer Leverkusen's Simon Rolfes.

Germany had the best first half chances with Real Madrid defender Christoph Metzelder twice going close, but the Irish defence held firm and went in goalless at the break. The hosts' best chance fell early in the second-half when striker Robbie Keane tried to lob German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.

Germany's player of the year striker Mario Gomez failed to take his chance to impress head coach Joachim Low, and he made way for Bayern Munich's Lukas Podolski on 64 minutes.

Podolski went close on numerous occasions but, like Gomez before him, could not beat Republic of Ireland keeper Shay Given, while at the other end Reading's Shane Long tested Lehmann with a well struck drive on 76 minutes.

The Irish launched a late assault on their adversaries' goal, but the German defence held out to make sure of a place at the EURO 2008 finals.