Germany and Austria is a match with huge history, with politics, and being geographical neighbours creating an intense rivalry and a stunning atmosphere in the Ernst Happel Stadium. Austria defeated the ‘enemy’ in 1978 in a 3-2 thriller dubbed the ‘Miracle of Cordoba’, the 1982 game was controversial with the sides accused in some quarters of not ‘competing’ and keeping the score favourable for both sides as the game ended 0-0. That apparently is the reason why the final group game is always played at the same time to avoid future accusations, at least according to the BBC.
Jansen was dropped after his poor defensive performances at left back. Friedrich was reinstated to the starting eleven as Low returned to the World Cup 2006 defence. Klose ran down the right flank and checked his run to beat his marker. Then the Bayern Munich man shifted a yard to create space to roll the ball to Gomez, who had the simple job of tapping in from a yard. But the highly rated striker continued a disappointing tournament as he mishit the ball and it looped up high into the air and the Austrian defence managed clear. The German pressure continued as Podolski, who must be wondering why he cannot seem to start up front ahead of the luckless Gomez, had his shot blocked. Soon after Austria were denied a penalty kick as Metzelder grappled with his striker and brought him down.
The static German defence struggled as Hopper failed to control the cross from the right as the ball rolled through to Lehmann, who clutched it gratefully. Aufhauser then shot from long range as Lehmann had to parry to his left with a diving save. The Germans then took their turn to attack as Podolski, who looked to add to his 3 goals, shot from outside of the box but Macho saved. The tensions were high as Aufhauser appeared to raise his hand to Podolski in an off-the-ball incident. Soon after both Hickersberger and Low were sent to the stands as the referee Manuel Gonzalez lost patience with their protests against the 4th Official.
Germany began the second half with renewed vigour, as they played with a higher tempo and more urgency with Lahm frequently bursting forward from left-back aiding the attack. The greater attacking pressure from Lahm resulted in a free-kick as he was brought down by Ivanschitz. Michael Ballack obliged to fire into the top right-hand corner past the dive of Macho, from the dead ball as he ended a run of poor, direct set-piece taking in the tournament.
Bayern Munich’s Lahm continued his influential second half display with a driving run past several Austrian players but he lacked end product as his shot was dragged wide. Some decent interplay down the left flank between Ballack and Podolski allowed the latter to shoot, but his shot whirred just wide of the right hand post. Austria fought back as Ivanschitz hit a tame shot, which rolled to Lehmann. The substitute Kienast almost levelled but his effort was blocked, while a few seconds later, the same striker’s header went wide.
The Germans tried to extend their lead, by substituting the ineffective Mario Gomez for Hitzelsperger, famous for his long range shots and their power. He played in Klose, who was challenged by Macho, who bravely dived it his feet and won the ball but was injured in the process. Ivanschitz had a lucky break as the ball fell in his direction after a block on his original run by Metzelder and he closed down on goal but was denied the opportunity to shoot as Lahm cleared over his own bar with a sliding clearance. Hoffer then had the chance to turn and shoot but sliced his hit wide as the co-hosts pressed for an equaliser. Germany tried to break as Klose was played in but his shot was too close to Macho who batted it away. Soon after Torsten Frings drove forward and shot low, inches wide.
In the final seconds of stoppage time Kormaz’s cross was headed away by Metzelder, who was brilliantly positioned as two strikers waited in behind in what was Austria’s final opportunity to equalize. They managed to work the ball to the wide areas on several occasions but the quality of the final ball was always poor. Oliver Neuville broke forward as Germany had a chance to kill the game off shot wide, despite having many options on either side of him.
Low’s side set up a mouth-watering quarter final with fellow favourites Portugal, as the hosts went out in respectable fashion, and not the humiliating manner, which many of their fans dreaded.
Austria 0 – 1 Germany FT
Bilic started with essentially a second choice side with a few regulars as Modric was rested in a game which Poland had to emerge victorious to stand any chance of progressing to the next stage. Beenhakker moved Dudka into defence
Poland almost took the lead as Lobodzinski crossed but Runje punched the ball away, while the returning ball into the box from the left was cleared for a corner. Rakitic whipped in a dangerous free-kick from the right flank, which Werder’s Klasnic, the first kidney transplant patient to play football almost stole in, after Vejic headed agonizingly wide. Schalke 04’s Rakitic showed his importance in the side by taking set-pieces and dictating their play. Lewandowski then fired a shot high and wide as Poland looked to seize the initiative. The fine left footed Pranjic of Heerenveen continued to bomb down the left and crossed for Petric, who failed to connect but was flagged offside anyway. Previously he tried a chip to the far post, but the left footed strike meant it curved away from the post in another chance.
Ivan Klasnic ran clear of the Poland defence and looked primed to break the deadlock, but Poland keeper Artur Boruc raced off his line and did brilliantly to smother the Croat’s strike. Minutes later the Celtic stopper repeated the feat against Ivan Rakitic’s effort from the left-hand side of the box. Krzynowek hits a free kick into the wall and the same man had a volley blocked as the ball set up nicely. Jerko Leko then shot wide as Croatia dominated. Klasnic was played in after a simple flick beat the Polish defence but his shot was blocked by Arthur Boruc, who rushed out expertly, as Rakitic’s follow up was hit well wide of the goal.
Boruc was finally beaten as Pranjic cut back for Klasnic, who shot into the far corner to send the Croats into the lead and driving seat for the top spot in Group A. Pranjic continued to bomb forward and hit the bar after getting his angles wrong. Roger Guerreiro, the naturalised Pole, received a simple pass when in space, which he used to turn and shoot to the far post, and it trickled despairingly wide as he held his head in his hands. Saganowski headed at the far post, which was caught by Runje after a floated cross from the left flank. His replacement Zahorski was then denied by Croatia reserve Runje as Poland desperately went for an equalizer but it was in vain.
Ivan Klasnic’s brilliant recovery from a kidney disorder to score the winner and set up a quarter final with Turkey, was fitting of a player who worked incredibly hard to bring back his career from the dead. His goal brought an easier route to the Semi-final with two colourful managers meeting in Slaven Bilic and Fatih Terrim in what should be an entertaining contest.
Poland 0 – 1 Croatia FT
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