Michael Ballack, Fredi Bobic and Kevin Kuranyi scored to take Germany into the UEFA EURO 2004™ finals, as Iceland's impressive campaign ended in a defeat that denies them even a play-off place.
Scotland deny Iceland
The visitors to Hamburg needed a win to overhaul the unbeaten Group 5 leaders, but were unable to recover from falling behind in the opening minutes, and as Scotland edged to a 1-0 victory against Lithuania, Iceland were forced into third place having led the group until a month ago. "We had to hope Lithuania could find an equaliser - and let's face it there was more hope of that than of us winning in Germany," said Iceland coach Asgeir Sigurvinsson after the match.
Start for Hinkel
Both sides had a raft of injured players, meaning Andreas Hinkel was given his first start at right-back for Germany, while Hermann Hreidarsson was risked in the same position by the visitors even though he had not played a game since the two teams' September draw.
Germany almost scored in the opening seconds but goalkeeper Árni Gautur Arason blocked Ballack's shot. Hinkel then forced Arason to save again with a a floated free-kick from deep. The inevitable goal came on nine minutes as Bobic ran on to a through-ball down the right wing and flicked on with his heel to the onrushing Ballack, who curled the ball on the half-volley unerringly into the bottom right-hand corner.
The pressure on Iceland did not ease and Arason had to remain constantly alert. Bobic seemed set to double the lead in the 22nd minute as he beat the offside trap, but the goalkeeper advanced to block his shot with his right foot. Iceland did have a better spell after the half-hour, when Hreidarsson forced Kahn to save and the German captain also denied Helgi Sigurdsson soon afterwards. At the other end, just before the break, Arason blocked Kevin Kuranyi's point-blank back-heel.
Iceland began the second half brightly as Gudjohnsen broke into the box and was denied by Kahn. But just before the hour their chances of winning the group evaporated in the space of 60 seconds. For an instant the outlook seemed so bright for the visitors as Hreidarsson headed in a cross only for Russian referee Valentin Ivanov to rule a foul. And Germany went straight up the other end and virtually sealed the game as Ballack found Kuranyi, who controlled on his chest and crossed for Bobic to volley in.
Painful for Iceland
It was painful for Iceland, who had turned away to celebrate their apparent equaliser, only to learn it had been disallowed and then found themselves two down. Minutes later the news came through that Scotland were ahead against Lithuania, meaning even a play-off place was now seemingly out of reach.
This was confirmed as time expired, and Miroslav Klose came off the bench to create the clinching goal as he ran from the halfway line into the Icelandic box and cut back from Kuranyi to stroke the ball into an empty net.
Germany coach Rudi Völler said: "We got off to a great start. Michael Ballack is so important for us and he often gets the first goal. We're happy we don't have to go into the play-offs. The result doesn't really do Iceland justice.
They pushed us really hard."
'That broke our backs'
Völler's opposite number, Sigurvinsson, picked out Hreidarsson's disallowed header as the turning point. "Instead of equalising we found ourselves 2-0 down. That broke our backs," he said. "But Germany deserved to win. A lot of my players have never played in such a stadium in front of such a crowd."
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