LONDON — For those who followed Austria and Germany through the group stage at Euro 2022, there was only one route to this quarter-final on paper. Ahead of the game at Brentford Community Stadium, analysts agreed on how the two teams would line up and how Germany would dominate the ball, allowing Austria to maintain firm defensive form and try to score into the break.
At least that should happen. However, as the game settled into a first-half rhythm, it was Austria who saw the better chances and it was Austria who panicked the opposition in defence.
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Described by Chelsea manager Emma Hayes (who served as ESPN analyst at the tournament) as the “best of the rest” outside of the top five teams in the world, Austria finally showed the attacking football that Irene Fuhrmann was keen to instill in her team. Even when Germany took the lead after 25 minutes from a low shot by Lina Magull, the back team only increased their offensive efforts.
As one of the best teams in the group stage, Germany played all three games with flying colors, adapting their style to their opponents and being just as comfortable with the ball as they were without it. A nation with a breathless European pedigree, having previously won eight Euros, the assumption was it would have been a team to progress through the knockout stages The team. However, the more Austria pushed, the weaker Germany seemed.
For all Austria’s offensive will, the nation, which only played in the second European Cup quarter-finals, could not find a way into the goal, the team with the unfortunate distinction of being second in this tournament to hit the woodwork several times (three times to be exact) in one Game. The balls in Brentford appeared to be magnetized, Germany had previously hit the frame of the goal three times in the opening game at the same stadium. Austria’s effort was underestimated but painfully close for the team looking to eliminate the Germans.
It’s often said that alongside skill and talent you need luck to win trophies, Germany had shown great skill and talent in their group games and it was luck at Brentford that put them fifth in the world rankings. The team was uncomfortable on defense but were saved by the woodwork and their own poor finish kept the game balanced.
As the clock ticked down to the inevitable, the game began to stretch, both teams missed good chances, neither Merle Frohms nor Manuela Zinsberger could relax. When Klara Bühl missed her chance to end the game late in the evening, the red team could breathe a sigh of relief when the ball trickled past the goal. The relief was short-lived, however, as Alex Popp scored four goals in as many games that summer when she blocked Zinsberger’s clearance, the ball bouncing off the veteran and ending in the back net.
It was an ugly goal but oddly fitting for the game, both teams had their chances and neither was able to take them, the failed ending was symptomatic of the occasion. The pressure of knockout football is evident with a German side who have been noticeably off pace in tournaments of late. The game against Austria full of defiance and joy, another EURO appearance with little outside expectation on their shoulders, the freedom to go out and play without fear to show their best football.
In the end it was the measurable margins, the width of a bar, the biggest difference between the two nations that evening. Lucky with the Germans on a night they needed something to convince them of their own sub-par football. The game is a lesson coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg and her players must learn from in the short time leading up to their semi-final match against France or the Netherlands.
With the former champions off balance for the first time in the tournament, there is much for Voss-Tecklenburg and her team to analyze ahead of the next game. They need to focus on their own mistakes on Thursday rather than finding the best ways to take advantage of their next opponent.