By John Irish
PARIS (Reuters) – Poland held uninspired Germany to the first 0-0 draw of Euro 2016 on Thursday as the world champions struggled to break down their dogged opponents, leaving both sides satisfied with a point in the end.
The result means the pair, who won their opening games, need a point in their final Group C matches against Ukraine and Northern Ireland respectively on Tuesday to guarantee reaching the last 16.
Ukraine, who have yet to get a point, cannot progress and will finish bottom of the section.
Germany were playing their first game at the Stade de France since the deadly November attacks in Paris when they also failed to score in a 2-0 defeat by the hosts.
On Thursday, they came out zipping the ball around early on, poking and prodding at the Poles but, with focal point Mario Goetze consistently dropping off, they lacked conviction in the final third and the Polish defense looked more than comfortable.
“We did not win one-on-ones. We did not have movement and we should be happy with the draw,” man-of-the-match Boateng said. “We were good defensively, but in attack there was a lot missing. We have to be more aggressive.”
Boateng looked solid alongside his usual central defensive partner Mats Hummels, who coach Joachim Loew rushed back into the starting lineup after the team’s unconvincing display at the back in their opening 2-0 win against Ukraine.
Germany and neighboring Poland, who last met at a European Championship in a feisty game in 2008, failed to conjure a shot on target in the first half in front of a packed and boisterous crowd.
The only notable chance fell to Goetze, who drifted a header over the bar in the fourth minute, although the attacking midfielder’s lack of killer instinct throughout the game highlighted his side’s deficiencies.
The Germans, eyeing a fourth European title, were clearly frustrated despite facing a team they have only lost to once.
Midfielders Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil were booked needlessly after fouls in the first half before Boateng joined them in the referee’s notebook after 67 minutes.
The second period had to have a faster tempo and it proved to be the case. The Poles came out firing on all cylinders and almost took the lead just after the break.
Kamil Grosicki’s cross found Arkadiusz Milik, who appeared to only have to guide the ball into the net, but with the goal at his mercy he barely connected and it went agonizingly wide in front of the passionate Polish supporters.
Seconds later Poland keeper Lukasz Fabianski held on to a Goetze shot in the box, the first on target in the game.
Poland began to move into the ascendancy and had the better chances. Milik proved wasteful again, shooting wide after striker Robert Lewandowski had tapped a free-kick to him just before the hour mark.
The Bayern Munich forward then saw his club colleague Boateng block a shot destined for the goal.
“We had more clear chances than Germany,” Lewandowski said. “In the first half we had maybe a bit too much respect, (but) in the second half we went forward a bit more.”
Despite some opportunities, Poland did not register a shot on target for the first time in a major tournament.
With the game finally opening up, Ozil had Germany’s best chance after 69 minutes but his shot on the turn was tipped over the bar spectacularly by Fabianski.
The midfielder then turned provider, playing in substitute Andre Schuerrle who shot straight at Fabianski minutes after replacing the ineffectual Goetze.
However, despite a string of half chances in the final 20 minutes, neither side looked like finding the breakthrough.
(Reporting By John Irish)