LONDON (AP) — Two months after winning the World Cup, Germany opened its 2016 European Championship campaign with a 2-1 victory over Scotland on Sunday, while Portugal and Greece both slumped to defeats in their qualifying matches.
Thomas Mueller scored both Germany’s goals — a difficult backward header in the 18th minute and a close-range effort in the 70th — just four minutes after Ikechi Anya had grabbed a deserved equalizer for Scotland.
“I’m satisfied with the three points. It was important to start with a win,” said Germany coach Joachim Loew, whose side is unbeaten in 33 European Championship or World Cup qualifiers.
Elsewhere, a Portugal side without injured Cristiano Ronaldo lost 1-0 at home to Albania, 10-man Romania beat Greece 1-0 and Serbia drew 1-1 with Euro 2016 host France in a friendly.
Germany labored for long periods in the Group D match, particularly in the second half when the Scots were at their most dangerous, but still the home side might have scored more goals.
“They’re very well organized. We missed one or two chances to make it more convincing. Then it got a bit close toward the end,” Mueller said.
Mueller missed two good opportunities before making the most of his third, when he beat two defenders to Sebastian Rudy’s cross and looped the ball over the goalkeeper.
Anya equalized when he raced onto Steven Fletcher’s through ball and beat Neuer with a cool finish inside the far post.
But Mueller soon restored the home side’s lead after a goalmouth scramble, rifling the ball to the roof of the net after Scotland failed to clear.
Scotland ended the game with 10 men after Charlie Mulgrew earned two yellow cards in injury time.
In the other Group D matches, Poland routed Gibraltar 7-0 in Portugal on the “home” side’s competitive UEFA debut, and Ireland beat Georgia 2-1 in Tbilisi.
Portugal sorely missed Ronaldo’s firepower as it was upset by unfancied Albania and was loudly jeered by unhappy fans.
Bekim Bajal’s spectacular second-half volley embarrassed the Portuguese who couldn’t translate their dominance into goals, although Nani came close several times in his 75th appearance and newcomer Ricardo Horta hit the woodwork.
The surprise result compounded Portugal’s problems after its disappointing first-round exit at the World Cup in Brazil.
Portugal commonly struggles in qualifying campaigns and had to go through the playoffs to reach the 2010 World Cup, Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup.
Also in Group I, Denmark came from behind to beat Armenia 2-1. Pierre Emile Hojbjerg leveled and substitute Thomas Kahlenberg netted the late winner for Denmark which fell behind to an early goal from Armenia’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Aleksander Kolarov’s 80th-minute equalizer earned Serbia a 1-1 draw against France, which qualifies automatically as host country. Paul Pogba scored for the French.
It was visitors’ day in Group F with 10-man Romania beating Greece, Northern Ireland finding late goals to defeat Hungary 2-1 and Finland beating the Faroe Islands 3-1 after being a goal down at halftime.
Greece was perhaps lucky to have played in front of empty stands — due to a home stadium ban — as the players were spared the likely embarrassment of being booed by their own fans for a sub-par performance.
Romania captain Ciprian Marica scored the winner with a penalty in the 10th minute, and then left his teammates to eke out a victory after getting sent off with a second yellow card in the 53rd.
In Budapest, Niall McGinn, in the 81st, and Kyle Lafferty, in the 88th, led Northern Ireland to the win over Hungary. Tamas Priskin had opened the scoring for the hosts in the 75th.
At Torshavn, Riku Riski scored in the 53rd and 78th for Finland, with Roman Eremenko adding a third in the 78th. Christian Holst had opened the scoring for the Faroe Islands in the 41st.
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