Germany booked their place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 with minimum fuss thanks to a comprehensive 3-0 win over Slovakia in Lille.
Slovakia fans will be disappointed that they failed to really test a side they beat in a friendly as recently as May 29th. Of the German team which lost 3-1 in that game in Augsburg, six started in this match in the Stade Pierre Mauroy. Truth be told, this was a German team operating at the level you would expect of the reigning World Champions.
Mario Gomez netted Germany's consolation in that defeat from the penalty spot and he scored again here, his goal sandwiched between strikes from Jerome Boateng and Julian Draxler who tormented Slovakia the entire time he was on the pitch. The Germans even had the luxury of being able to miss a penalty, Mesut Ozil seeing his attempt saved with the score only at 1-0.
Joachim Low's men started the brighter, with Sami Khedira forcing Matus Kozacik into his first save of the day, the 'keeper tipping the ball over for a corner in the seventh minute. Unfortunately for Slovakia, it was their failure to properly clear this Toni Kroos corner which led to them falling behind 60 seconds later.
The clearance fell to Jerome Boeteng on the edge of the box and he struck a low first-time volley which took a slight deflection on its way past Kozacik. It was the Bayern Munich defender's first goal for Germany on his 63rdinternational appearance.
The Germans continued to press had a glorious chance to double their lead in the 13th minute. Slovakia skipper Martin Srktel dropped his side into deeper trouble when he opted to push Mesut Ozil in the box. Referee Szymon Marciniak didn't hesitate in pointin to the penalty mark.
Ozil took the spotkick himself but struck it at the ideal height for Kozacik to save to his left. Skrtel was relieved. Arsenal man Ozil had another chance to double his country's lead in the 24th minute but flashed his first time half-volley from the edge of the box inches wide of the post.
Germany dominated the play in the opening 45 minutes and fashioned some half-chances – Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller, Julian Draxler, Khedira, Kroos and Ozil all seeing chances blocked or miss the target. However, they were given a reminder in the 39th minute that sloppiness in defence and further profligacy in front of goal could easily be punished with a Slovakia goal.
Right-back Peter Pekaric got forward for the Slovakians and crossed to Juraj Kucka at the backpost. Under pressure from Joshua Kimmich, Kucka didn't make the cleanest connection – the ball seemingly coming off his head and shoulder – but it was still going into the top corner and required the intervention of a flying Manuel Neuer to tip it over the bar.
The corner was eventually recycled into a chance for Milan Skriniar inside the box, but he shot badly wide with a sight of goal. Slovakia would be made to rue those missed opportunities when they conceded a second goal just before half-time.
Germany worked the ball out to Julian Draxler on the left-flank. He showed Kucka a clean pair of heels before getting to the byline and cutting the ball back to the nearpost where Gomez was waiting for a simple six yard tap-in. It was the striker's 30th international goal for Germany.
It was the Slovakians who had the first chance of note four minutes into the second-half as they went in search of a route back into the game. A ball came across the box to Marek Hamsik. He delayed and then teed up Kucka on the edge of the box for a first-time strike which had power but lacked accuracy – Neuer was able to hold it at the second attempt.
Kucka wouldn't let up, winning a free-kick from Jonas Hector in a decent position in the 53rd minute. Hamsik's effort hit Mats Hummels in the wall and should have gone out for a corner. Somehow, the officials either didn't see it take the deflection or thought it struck a Slovakian player in the wall. Either way, it was given as a goal-kick, much to the chagrin of Hamsik and his teammates.
Germany started the second-half slowly, giving away another free-kick in the 56th minute when Draxler fouled Skriniar. It was a bit further out than the first one and was ultimately wasted as Hamsik rolled it to Kucka for a strike that flew well off target.
However, the Germans wouldn't stay quiet for long, with Muller winning a corner in the 62nd minute. Hummels and substitute Jan Gregus challenged each other and the ball flew into the air at the backpost. Draxler was lurking and executed a perfect volley from close range to all but secure his side's place in the quarter-finals.
Hummels earned a booking for what looked to be a fair challenge, with an albeit heavy follow-through, in the 67th minute and from the resulting free-kick, Jan Durica blasted just wide from Hamsik's lay-off. Four minutes later, Gregus summed up his side's efforts with a pointless 30 yard strike that never looked like going in.
Slovakia lost heart after that and Germany controlled the last 20 minutes, passing up a succession of chances to increase their lead further as they eased into the quarter-finals.
The closest they came to adding a fourth was when Muller pulled the ball back towards the penalty spot the box in stoppage time and Kroos, unchallenged, fired straight at Kozacik when he should have scored.
Germany: Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Jerome Boateng (Benedikt Howedes, 72), Mats Hummels, Jonas Hector; Thomas Muller, Sami Khedira (Bastian Schweinsteiger, 76), Toni Kroos, Julian Draxler (Lukas Podolski, 72); Mesut Ozil; Mario Gomez.
Subs not used: Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK), Bernd Leno (GK), Emre Can, Shkodran Mustafi, Antonio Rudiger, Leroy Sané, Andre Schurrle, Julian Weigl, Mario Gotze.
Yellow Cards: Kimmich (46), Hummels (67).
Slovakia: Matus Kozacik; Peter Pekarik, Jan Durica, Martin Skrtel, Norbert Gyomber (Kornel Salata, 84); Patrik Hrosovsky, Milan Skriniar, Marek Hamsik; Juraj Kucka, Michal Duris (Stanislav Sestak, 64), Vladimir Weiss (Jan Gregus, HT).
Subs not used:, Jan Mucha (GK), Jan Novota (GK), Miroslav Stoch, Tomas Hubocan, Ondrej Duda, Adam Nemec, Robert Mak, Dusan Svento, Viktor Pecovsky.
Yellow Cards: M Skrtel (13), J Kucka (90+1).
Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland).
Extratime Man of the Match: Julian Draxler (Germany).
Fran Reilly joined Extratime.ie in February 2015 having previously written for the Drogheda/Fingal Independents, loi19.com and the Cork City matchday programme. Though only part of the ET family for a relatively short time, the Donaghmede native has already had the opportunity to cover League of Ireland clubs both domestically and in Europe, as well as Republic of Ireland internationals. He can count Martin O'Neill, Roy Keane and Dutch footballing legend Ruud Gullit amongst those he has come face-to-face with during his line of ET work. He still hopes to someday meet Henrik Larsson. <br /><br /> Fran was once sent to watch Lionel Messi play in the Aviva Stadium for Barcelona but left feeling underwhelmed as his performance fell some way short of replicating Wes Hoolahan's against Deportivo la Coruna in August 2004. That famous night was enough to make Fran a Shels fan and he even pulled on the red shirt himself once for Owen Heary's tribute match in November 2013. Hilariously, he saw a penalty saved by unforgiving goalkeeper Lee Murphy, then at Bohemians. <br /><br /> His one day spell as a member of the Extratime media six-a-side panel fared no better, his status as a reporter coming under threat following a string of less than inspirational performances. However, he convinced the ET hierarchy to persevere with him so he lingers on, covering whatever clubs he can reach by public transport. You can follow Fran on Twitter (@FranTomReilly) where he spends most of his time retweeting other people's LOI views and news and claiming them as his own. <br /><br />