German coach Joachim LÃ¶w expressed his pleasure at the teamwork shown by his side but admitted they would need to raise their game if they are to progress any further in this tournament. â€œWe really played as a team tonight, I think that was one of the positives of the game against Austria. But we have to return to another level of play, if we want to advance in the tournamentâ€, LÃ¶w told the official Germany website. Germany will face Luis Filipe Scolariâ€™s Portugal in the quarter-final on Thursday in Basle.
However, Vienna was the venue last night as Austria, ranked 92nd in the official FIFA world rankings, attempted to cause the biggest upset of the tournament so far by knocking out their neighbours and fierce rivals Germany. It was Austria who created the first opening, however, it didnâ€™t cause Germany too many problems. A long ball from Pogatetz got in behind the German defence and almost into the path of Hoffer but Lehmann was quick off his line to clear any danger.
After an early scare, in the slightest sense, Germany took the game to Austria and should have been one up with four minutes gone. Stuttgart striker Mario Gomez was played in after a great run by KlÃ¶se. Gomez had an open goal to tap the ball into from around four yards but he managed to lift the ball into the air instead. He then allowed Austrian defender Garics to muscle past him and head ball off the line. Looking back, Gomez will know he should have followed the ball in as almost any touch would have resulted in a goal. LÃ¶w has stuck with almost the same eleven for the first three matches but he must seriously be considering replacing Gomez for the next match as he has failed to impress and is obviously short of confidence.
With around twenty minutes gone and still no score, the Germans were given another scare. A cross into the box from Garics found its way to the feet of Hoffer. His poor first touch allowed Lehmann to take the ball away from his feet. If Hoffer had managed to control the ball, he would have been one-on-one with the former Arsenal goalkeeper, and if he had scored it would have required a different approach towards the match from Germany. As it was though, Germany were happy not to commit too many men forward, confident that they would take one or more of their chances to see of the co-hosts.
Both team had their spells of possession during the first half but it was Germany who troubled their opponents more, with the ever dangerous Lukas Podolski having a fine strike from outside the box tipped round the post by JÃ¼rgen Macho. However, the biggest talking point of the half was when both LÃ¶w, and his Austrian counterpart Josef Hickersberger, were sent to the stand by Spanish referee Gonzalez. The German coach still doesnâ€™t know why he was sent off and will await a decision from Uefa. â€œRegarding my ejection, I can only say that I had told the fourth official that Josef Hickersberger and I just want to do our job, all within the boundaries of the coaching zone. Then, both of us were ejectedâ€ said LÃ¶w. He added, â€œI never left the coaching zone. There is no rule against us giving instructions. Now, we have to wait for the decision of the UEFA disciplinary commission.â€
In the opening minutes of the second half, Mertesacker was caught in possession around forty yards out which allowed Ivanschitz to break towards the penalty area. Once he got there he seemed to run out of ideas and allowed the Bremen defender to recover and get the ball to safety.
Within four minutes of the restart Germany were ahead. A good run from Lahm, who has been one of few players to impress for the Germans during the group stages of the championships, found him fouled outside the box. The resulting free-kick saw Lahm lay the ball off, which was stopped dead by Frings then bulleted into the top corner by Ballack from around thirty yards. Ballack becomes only the second player to score for Germany so far in the tournament, with Podolski scoring all three previous goals.
Austria went on to have a spell of pressure, including three corners, but never really looked as though they would score as Germany seemed as if they wanted to sit back and hold onto their lead. A great intervention from Lahm stopped Ivanschitz from getting through on goal and Hoffer had a strike that he pulled wide.
In the final ten minutes of the match Austria began to commit more men forward, and on a few occasions were caught outnumbered at the back. Germany should have finished the game off but substitute Oliver Neuville opted to shoot rather than pick a pass to one of three waiting teammates.
Overall, and like the rest of their tournament, the Austrians didnâ€™t offer much. Germany, on the other hand, have shown they have the players to win matches but have failed to show they have what it takes to return back to Germany as champions. Podolski, Ballack, Frings, and Lahm have all been the stand out performers for the Germans so far but they will need a lot more than this to go all the way. LÃ¶w is under pressure to change things although from past evidence it seems he doesnâ€™t like to make sweeping changes. Perhaps, with Schweinsteiger back from suspension, he will move Podolski back to his natural position and finally drop the unimpressive Gomez.
Austria: Macho, Garics, Stranzl, Hiden (Leitgeb 55), Pogatetz, Harnik (Kienast 67), Aufhauser (Saumel 63), Ivanschitz, Fuchs, Korkmaz, Hoffer.
Booked: Stranzl, Hoffer, Ivanschitz.
Germany: Lehmann, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm, Fritz (Borowski 90), Frings, Ballack, Podolski (Neuville 83), Gomez (Hitzlsperger 60), Klose.
Referee: Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain).