Germany reach Euro 2022 semi-finals with hard-fought win over plucky Austria

Lina Magull celebrates after scoring Germany’s first goal

At the end of a fierce and brutal contest, Alexandra Popp typified Germany’s fight. The striker’s goal to seal her country’s 2-0 win over Austria will not make any highlight reels at the end of Euro 2022, but her perseverance in charging down goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger represents the sort of relentless, suffocating power that could carry Germany to yet another European title this summer.

Germany rode their luck at times – with Austria hitting the post twice as well as the crossbar – and faced spells of significant pressure in Brentford.

Their response was unwavering and controlled, strangling any last fight out of Austria to advance to the semi-finals. Quite simply, after failing to reach this stage last time out, the eight-time champions are back to where they expect to be.

This was another performance of pragmatism, as displayed by Germany throughout the tournament. In the group stages, they knew they were superior to Denmark and Finland and asserted their authority while the goals flowed. They accepted that Spain would beat them in possession, so stayed patient and waited for their moments. In Austria, they faced a side they were well aware would battle and scrap for every yard, so they made sure they won the war.

They are a complete and relentless force, the eight-time champions. The 20-year-old Lena Oberdorf was immense, patrolling the midfield and enforcing Germany’s mission as if with a steel fist. Lina Magull roams the spaces ahead menacingly, and then finishes chances as if her life depends on it. There is perhaps not a harder runner in the tournament than Svenja Huth, who pumps her arms and drives her legs like a 200m sprinter coming around the bend. On the other wing, Klara Buhl cuts in from the flank with speed and guile. In defence, Marina Hegering and Kathrin Hendrich faced challenging moments, but after four games Merle Frohms has still not conceded a goal.

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Austria, to their immense credit, produced a second wave. This is a team built on spirit and graft and Irene Fuhrmann’s side were never one to be underestimated.

Austria covered more ground than any other team in the group stages and their post-match celebrations throughout the tournament conveyed just how much they put on the line in each fixture. It was evident once more as they took the game to Germany in a fast, high-energy start. It left Germany, at least for a moment, rattled and out of sorts. They scrambled and hacked clear as Austria pressed high up the pitch, with their bright start culminating in Marina Georgieva hitting the post with a header after 15 minutes.

Marina Georgieva struck the post – one of three times Austria hit the woodwork

But then Germany’s generals took over. Oberdorf is still really a prodigy for Wolfsburg and her national team but plays like a veteran, and Sara Dabritz followed her lead. Popp didn’t give up the chase – she wouldn’t right up until the last. Neither did Buhl, and it swiftly led to the opening goal.

Popp forced Zinsberger into a rushed clearance, and then Buhl burst past Laura Wienrother to race to the byline. The cut-back was sharp and direct. Popp lifted her left leg, as if opening a gate to the arriving Magull, and in an instant Austria’s promising work was undone.

Alexandra Popp dummied the ball to allow Lina Magull to score the opener

Huth would force Zinsberger into a save at her near post, before Buhl again darted around the outside to set up the arriving right back Guilia Gwinn as Germany hit the post within 20 seconds of the restart.

It was ominous – but Austria dug in and instead went again. The illusion that Germany would coast home was shattered when Barbara Dunst almost caught out Frohms with an audacious effort from long range, her effort bouncing off the crossbar. It was followed moments later by Austria striking the frame of the goal for the third time, as Sarah Puntigam shot through bodies from the 18-yard line.

Germany were startled, again having to whack the ball clear from inside the box. The noise inside this compact stadium in the west of London lifted, just as it has done so brilliantly throughout these Euros, and it felt as if an Austrian equaliser would follow as a result of the surge.

Giulia Gwinn struck the post early in the second half for Germany

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Instead, Germany again took back control. It wasn’t an instant seize, rather a gradual squeeze on the game, but it was followed by a sudden flow of chances. Substitute Linda Dallmann lifted a shot over on the breakaway. Buhl cut inside and smacked a swerving shot off the bar – as Germany had their turn to find the woodwork – before Buhl missed an open goal after Popp squared at the end of a cutting move.

It should have been the final, clinical blow. Instead it was handed to them. Zinsberger has represented so much of Austria’s defiance throughout the Euros but was again closed down by Popp – and this time with fatal consequences. Her clearance was charged down and rebounded into the open net, and Germany were once again back on familiar ground.

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