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Heitinga helps keep Germany at bay

Ireland's group opponents Germany had to settle for a 0-0 draw against old foes Netherlands, despite dominating possession.

Mario Goetze was twice denied by Dutch defender John Heitinga midway through the first half while Marco Reus shot just wide for the Germans.

Netherlands' only good chance came in the second period when Daryl Janmaat's fine effort was blocked by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

The Dutch also suffered a blow when Schalke 04's Ibrahim Afellay limped off injured.

The two sides, missing several high-profile players, are top of their 2014 World Cup qualifying groups.

Elsewhere, France came back from a goal down to beat Italy 2-1, sending the Azzurri to their sixth consecutive friendly defeat.

After Stephen El Shaarawy gave Italy the lead in the 35th minute, Mathieu Valbuena equalised for France two minutes later and substitute Bafetimbi Gomis scored the winner in the 67th.

Italy striker Mario Balotelli hit the crossbar with a long-range shot in the 10th minute and team-mate Emanuele Giaccherini also struck the goal-frame four minutes from the end.

Italy played without first-choice goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, with Paris Saint-Germain's Salvatore Sirigu instead starting the match, while midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo only came on in the 49th.

Irish Independent