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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Women’s Euro 2022: Germany ride their luck to reach semi-finals as Austria bow out

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midst the euphoria at England reaching a fourth successive major tournament semi-final on Wednesday night, it is worth remembering that as recently as 2013 Germany were winning this competition for the sixth time in a row.

That run came to an end with a surprise quarter-final defeat to Denmark in the Netherlands five years ago, but the eight-time champions remain firmly on course for a shot at reclaiming their crown at Wembley ten days from now after a 2-0 victory over Austria.

One of France or the Netherlands will stand in the way in what will, either way, be a heavyweight semi-final next week, but Germany head to Milton Keynes with another box ticked, matching England in following a swashbuckling group stage with more attritional progress through the last-eight.

Like England, they could count themselves a touch fortunate as an inspired Austria hit the woodwork three times in an impressive display, though, unlike the host nation, Germany never had to chase the tie and might have killed the game sooner had they not struck it twice themselves.

In the end, it was only in the final minute that Manuela Zinsberger’s abysmal clearance against Alexandra Popp truly settled the affair, after Lina Magull had edged Germany ahead midway through the first half.

Austria had been the surprise package in the Netherlands in 2017, reaching the semi-finals on tournament debut, but are a better side now and after threatening to spoil England’s opening night party had stunned Ada Hegerberg’s Norway to follow the hosts out of Group A.

Against a side who had conceded just once, Germany expected to face stiffer defensive resistance than put up by Finland, Denmark or even Spain, but inside ten minutes were almost undone by a moment of offensive magic from Julia Hickelsberger-Fuller, who flicked wonderfully over her marker before hitting straight at Merle Frohms from the angle.

Within 60 seconds, Germany had responded with an early chance of their own, Popp – in form and continuing to lead the line despite the return to the squad of Lea Schuller from her Covid absence – skying over the bar.


Austria centre-half Marina Georgieva then found the post with a header from Verena Hanshaw’s corner as the two sides went toe-to-toe, quite literally. There was plenty of needle, plenty of uncompromising challenges, many of them late and several greeted with fist-pumps and chest-slaps, the two sides laden with more regular friends and foes, given seven of the Austrian starting XI played for clubs in Germany’s Frauen-Bundesliga last term.

The German opener came with the kind of ruthless flourish that had seen them put Spain to the sword here last week despite having just 30 per cent of the ball. Arsenal goalkeeper Zinsberger’s kick was hardly disastrous, but it dropped invitingly into midfield and gave Felicitas Rauch a sniff. She attacked it and found the menacing Klara Buhl, whose pull-back was cleverly stepped over by Popp to allow Magull to slide home.

Zinsberger’s opposite number, Merle Frohms, would get away with a much poorer clearance to an identical spot soon after the break, Barbara Dunst trying for a more direct route to goal from 40 yards, only to see her brilliant effort come back off the bar.


By then, Germany’s outstanding right-back Giulia Gwinn had herself found the post with a low strike at the other end, before Frohms’ goal continued its charmed life as Sarah Puntigam had the sound of ball on woodwork clanging around the ground for the third time in 13 second-half minutes.

It did not feel like Austria’s night, but Germany determined to keep them in it with some wasteful finishing. Popp scuffed a header wide before substitute Linda Dallman lifted onto the roof of the net and then whipped just past the top corner after more poor distribution from Zinsberger. Buhl leathered a rocket off the corner of post and bar, then somehow slid wide of an almost open goal from Popp’s square pass.

Eventually, Zinsberger settled the matter for them, this time with no caveat about her culpability as she blasted against the closing Popp and saw the ball ricochet into her net.

This was the last match to be played here in Brentford during these Euros, a shame since the west London stadium has proved an ideal venue, each match here a good one, attracting strong crowds of rival fans, enthusiastic neutrals and a proper summer tournament feel.

Next, we head north, and by the time these championships return to the capital, it will be to crown a winner, a feeling Germany know all too well.


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