Euro 2016: Slovakia no match for mighty Germany

Craig Forrest recaps the Euro 2016 action on Sunday, including big wins by Germany and Belgium, and a come-from-behind victory for France.

LILLE, France — Germany’s first penalty miss at a European Championship for 40 years proved but a footnote Sunday as the team eased into the quarterfinals with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Slovakia.

Goals from Jerome Boateng, Mario Gomez and man-of-the-match Julian Draxler ensured the world champion did not rue Mesut Ozil’s missed spot kick early in the first half.

Up next for Germany is a quarterfinal-clash against two-time defending champion Spain or old rival Italy for what will undoubtedly be one of the most-anticipated matches in the next round.

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Germany produced its best performance of the tournament yet, showing its defensive resilience as well as attacking ambition in a display that augurs well for the tougher challenges ahead.

"Today was a good performance, in defence and in attack," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "But with due respect to our opponent, this was not an indicator for how the tournament will go on. We have to improve further to be successful."

Boateng scored as soon as the eighth minute when his shot from outside the area took a slight deflection into the left corner of the Slovakia goal. It was the fastest goal scored by Germany at a European Championship.

"It was about time it went in," Boateng quipped over his first international goal in 63 appearances. The 27-year-old had been doubtful for the game, but he overcame a calf injury to play.

Ozil had the chance to make it 2-0 six minutes later from the penalty spot after Martin Skrtel shoved Mario Gomez, but goalkeeper Matus Kozacik guessed the right way and palmed away his effort.

It was the first missed penalty by a German player at the European Championship since Uli Hoeness shot over the bar as Czechoslovakia defeated West Germany 5-3 in a penalty shootout in the 1976 final. Antonin Panenka famously scored the winning penalty with a chip down the middle.

Germany had further chances to double its lead in the first half — Thomas Mueller had a host of opportunities but his peculiar record of never having scored at the European Championship has now been extended to nine matches. Ozil also went close.

Germany’s pressure eventually paid off, when Gomez doubled the score in the 43rd after Draxler eluded Juraj Kucka to set up the simple finish.

"It’s such a nice moment," said Gomez, who missed out on Germany’s World Cup win in 2014 due to injury and poor form. "I want to enjoy it and not think of the past. It’s such fun to play in this team."

Kucka had moments earlier come close to levelling for Slovakia only to be thwarted by a fine reflex save from Manuel Neuer.

Draxler killed off any lingering hopes of a Slovakia comeback with a 63rd-minute volley from close range.

"The coach asked me to do it. He has given me a lot of confidence," said Draxler, back in place of Mario Goetze, who started each group game. "It’s not important if it was my best-ever game or not. I am just happy I could help the team."

With the game settled, Loew introduced some players, including Lukas Podolski for his first appearance in the tournament, while resting Boateng, Draxler and Sami Khedira ahead of the quarterfinal match in Bordeaux on Saturday.

"Now the games that we’re looking forward to are coming. They’re why we came to the European Championship. Of course we want the title. And for that you have to beat such teams," Gomez said.

Germany is the only team remaining at Euro 2016 that has yet to concede a goal. In fact, Loew’s side hasn’t conceded a goal since it lost 3-1 to Slovakia in a pre-tournament friendly in Augsburg on May 29.

"We feel sorry," Kozacik said. "Germany dominated from the beginning. They probably prepared better after we defeated them in the warm-up game."

Slovakia midfielder Marek Hamsik, who was involved in his side’s few forays forward, looked back on a campaign that yielded a 2-1 win over Russia and a scoreless draw with England.

"It’s a pity the way we lost," Hamsik said. "But looking back at the whole championships, I am happy what we achieved."

Loew is looking forward to the bigger challenges ahead, with France a possible semifinal opponent.

"I think we have to become even stronger if we want to play a decisive role in this tournament," Loew said. "Of course, we will improve against better opponents."

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