WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP)Missing five players in coronavirus isolation, Germany eased to a 9-0 win over 10-man Liechtenstein in World Cup qualifying on Thursday as North Macedonia and Romania stayed in the fight for a playoff spot.
After defender Niklas Sule tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, four of his Germany teammates were ordered to isolate as close contacts.
Already assured of qualifying for the World Cup, Germany’s straightforward task against Liechtenstein was made even easier when the Liechtenstein defender Jens Hofer was sent off after just nine minutes.
Hofer accidentally kicked Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka in the face as they challenged for a high ball and immediately recognized his error, holding Goretzka to break his fall. After being red-carded for dangerous play, Hofer left the field arm-in-arm with the player he’d fouled.
Ilkay Gundogan converted the penalty, starting a run of Germany goals. Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller finished with two goals each. Marco Reus and Ridle Baku also scored, along with two own goals.
Germany coach Hansi Flick has won all of his first six games in the job as his flying start continued on a night when his predecessor Joachim Low was honored in a pre-game ceremony.
After playing in its first European Championship this year, North Macedonia is firmly in the hunt to play at the World Cup for the first time, too.
Enis Bardi scored a hat trick, including two penalties, as North Macedonia cruised to a 5-0 win away at Armenia to stay in contention for second place and a playoff spot. North Macedonia hosts Iceland on Sunday for its last game. North Macedonia is ranked 74th in the world and would likely face a tough draw if it makes the playoffs, which are seeded by ranking.
Romania is in third place after drawing 0-0 with Iceland, with Ianis Hagi hitting the post for Romania in the 85th. Romania’s last game is against Liechtenstein on Sunday.
Armenia is fourth and could technically still qualify but its poor goal difference means it would require an improbably big win over Germany and results elsewhere going its way.
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