Everyone expected Germany, brimming with talent and playing with such a stylish confidence these days, to cruise into Brazil. Joachim Löw’s team has reliably delivered the goods with just a single draw and no losses through nine matches. The latest triumph came Friday with a business-like 3-0 win over Ireland, establishing Germany as the 11th team to officially book its spot at World Cup 2014 in Brazil.
Germany was the third team to stamp its ticket on Friday, following successful afternoons from Germany and Switzerland.
Low’s team was in control right from the start Friday against overmatched Ireland, requiring just a single point in the match to qualify for Brazil but jumping to a quick lead in Cologne and seeing out all three points without much fuss. In fact, only a handful of swell stops from Ireland goalkeeper David Forde helped keep the score from being worse.
Die Mannschaft has qualified for every World Cup in which it has been eligible. (The team played as West Germany until 1990.)
For Ireland, the World Cup dream is over. The Irish had only an outside chance as it was, but Friday’s loss means to trip to Brazil for LA Galaxy man Robbie Keane – who is 33 and almost certainly won’t have another chance – and the rest of his countrymen.
Keane could not pass a late fitness test and was on the bench Friday. The man who replaced him, Celtic’s Anthony Stokes, fumbled away possession in his own end early in the match. Germany’s Philipp Lahm pounced, quickly finding Sami Khedira whose deflected shot gave Germany a lead after just 12 minutes.
A brilliant goal concocted from Toni Kroos’s delicate, short-range chip and Andre Schurrle’s skillful turn put the game out of reach midway through the second half.
PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.
Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.
Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.
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No financial details were given.
The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.
Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.
Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.
The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.
[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]
Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.
He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.
MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.
That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.
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Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”
Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.
Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.
Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.
The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.
[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]
And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.
It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.
Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.
Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday