Mario Goetze (L) of Germany and Poland, euro2016.jpg

World champions Germany were held 0-0 by Poland on Friday as they failed to prematurely clinch a place in the knock-out rounds at Euro 2016.

Caution prevailed on both sides in the Stade de France as Toni Kroos and Mario Goetze came closest for the Germans while the lively Arkadiusz Milik had the two biggest chances of the game after the break for Poland.

The outcome in front of 73,648 fans left both sides top of Group C with four points each, ahead of Northern Ireland who have three, and eliminated Ukraine who have zero points with one round left.

The group is decided Tuesday when Germany play Northern Ireland and Poland take on Ukraine.

"It was an intense game, both teams worked well defenesively and allowed few chances. If you are realistic you have to live with the 0-0. We stabilised our defense but had only few solutions up front," Germany coach Joachim Loew said.

Poland's Adam Nawalka struck a similar note: "I am very satisfied with the team's discipline and tactical awareness. The players put a lot of heart into the match. Maybe we are not fully happy because we didn't score but 0-0 is a fair result."

Mats Hummels returned into the German 11 from a calf injury for his first match in almost a month, putting Shkodran Mustafi back on the bench although he had scored in the opening 2-0 over Ukraine.

Nawalka had to field reserve keeper Lukasz Fabianski in place of injured Wojciech Szczesny, while Kamil Grosicki returned to take his place on the right wing again in place of Bartosz Kapustka.

Germany made their presence felt from the outset in their return to the Stade de France where they had played a friendly against France in November when the stadium was one of the targets of the Paris terror attacks.

Sami Khedira was booked for a tactical foul on Milik in the third, and Goetze headed high a minute later to complete a move after Kroos had won the ball in midfield.

Poland were pegged back, trying to stop the German passing game with two four-man lines but losing almost every tackle in midfield where Kroos and Khedira ruled.

However, in the 15th Lewandowski outsmarted Hummels on the left wing but his cross was easily cleared by man-of-the-match Jerome Boateng. But Hummels did better shortly after with a block as he soon stabilised his performance.

In-between, there was more danger on the other end when Kroos slid into Mueller's cross but aimed wide left.

It however turned out to be the last chance before the break as safety came first for the Germans at the back - and Goetze, Julian Draxler, Thomas Mueller and Mesut Oezil were no major threat up front.

The game restarted with a bang though as after just 20 seconds Milik failed to head in Grosicki's cross from point-blank range, and Goetze aimed straight at Fabianski less than a minute later from a promising position on the other end.

Milik was unlucky again when he slipped and miscued completely unmarked near the penalty spot, and Germany also came close in the same 69th minute but Fabianski tipped Oezil's shot over the bar.

But not even German substitute Mario Gomez could break the deadlock as Germany's troubles in second group matches at big events under Loew continued - with just one win in five games, after winning all five opening matches in the period since 2008.

"I can't say a lot about the second match. Poland are also good, they defended well. We can do better up front. I wouldn't attribute it to second game," Loew said.

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