Soccer / World Cup

Germany, England close in on berths

AP

Germany roared back to its best in a 6-0 demolition of Norway, while England also closed in on World Cup qualification, albeit in contrasting fashion in a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Slovakia on Monday.

An early Marcus Rashford blunder put England on the back foot, but the 19-year-old forward made amends by scoring the winner to put his side five points clear in Europe’s Group F with two rounds remaining.

It proved much easier for Germany in Stuttgart.

Coach Joachim Loew had been looking for a reaction from his players after the fortunate 2-1 win over the Czech Republic on Friday, and Norway paid the price as the defending champion delivered a statement of intent.

“It was a lesson for us,” Norway coach Lars Lagerback said.

The fans also played their part in a carnival atmosphere — a stark contrast to the unsightly scenes in Prague, where a group of around 200 Germany fans chanted Nazi slogans and abused striker Timo Werner.

Werner was received warmly in Stuttgart, his hometown, and he repaid the fans with two goals as Germany moved five points clear of Northern Ireland. Loew’s side made it eight wins from eight games.

“It was a really joyful, spirited atmosphere. lt was an evening of football as you’d wish it,” German Football Association president Reinhard Grindel said.

Northern Ireland’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic in Belfast secured at least second place in Group C. Germany would need to lose both of its remaining games to surrender the top spot.

Group winners qualify automatically for the World Cup in Russia, while the top eight runners-up from nine groups go on to playoffs to decide the other four places allocated to Europe.