Magull and Popp strike to sink Austria and send Germany to the semis

Germany are one game away from their ninth European Championship final but they had an all-powerful scare. Lina Magull’s first-half goal and an odd late strike from Alexandra Popp made for an exciting and eventful game, but Austria came close and deserved extra time. The Outsiders hit the woodwork three times, and although Germany did the same twice, they should be credited for leading the fight. As it happens, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg can prepare her players for a mouth-watering semi-final against France or the Netherlands knowing that she will take on an exceptional team to dislodge them now.

Although these neighbors had only met twice before, there were few secrets between them. Eight of Austria’s starting XI play in the German top flight and that fact alone is a reminder that, although clearly underdogs, Irene Fuhrmann’s side are wise and seasoned. They started off with enough confidence after weathering a minor tornado in the opening seconds. Tackles flew out quickly, rising to the stakes, and German defender Marina Hegering had to be treated after a challenge in midfield.

Austria’s group stage campaign was notable for their composure in possession, but showed an explosive side when Julia Hickelsberger-Füller, charging from the right after a clever touch, fired a straight shot at Merle Frohms when she was well placed. Perhaps attack would prove the best form of defence: their backline was weakened by the injury of captain Viktoria Schnaderbeck, who was only fit on the bench and watched Popp ignite after the dismissal of Klara Bühl.

It was a let go, but Austria made a big part of the start of the race. They came excruciatingly close in the 13th minute when, after Verena Hanshaw kicked in a teasing corner from the right, Marina Georgieva rose over to plant a header against the far post. A goal would have suited their early labors, and Germany might consider herself warned.

Lina Magull watches her shot beat the Austrian keeper to put Germany ahead.
Lina Magull watches her shot beat the Austrian keeper to put Germany ahead. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

The message was duly heard. Germany hadn’t really started but were at their best after Manuela Zinsberger rushed a clearance under pressure from Popp. Eventually Bühl was able to dribble down the left and cut a low cross which, cleverly left by Popp, was turned cleanly on the run by Magull. Zinsberger’s mistake had barely created the chance on a set, but anyone who offers Germany a thumbs up tends to be punished mercilessly.

Now Germany could smell the blood and Austria had to, at a minimum, do what they had managed against England: stay in the game after scoring an early goal. They would need one of their own on top of that, but keeping things tight until half-time seemed a reasonable goal. Svenja Huth threatened that ambition with a fiendish through ball that crossed goal without meeting a killer touch, followed by an angled drive that Zinsberger fended off, but the result remained firmly in question in the interval.

It was almost settled within 30 seconds of the restart when Giulia Gwinn, marauding from her right-back position deep into the heart of the Austrian penalty area, struck for the first time against the outside of Zinsberger’s right post. A run from Bühl then took its toll and there was a risk, during the most assertive period of the game for Germany, that Austria would eventually be overwhelmed.

Instead, they nearly matched amazingly. This time it was Frohms who lacked firing, but Barbara Dunst, one of the month’s most impressive players, had a lot to do from 40 yards out. She took a few touches before throwing a near-perfect effort at the keeper but off the crossbar, causing gasps. Frohms had smartly rushed to rally in front of Hickelsberger-Füller seconds before and both streaks confirmed that the contest remained full of life.

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Germany looked charmed. Remarkably, Austria hit the woodwork for the third time in the 57th minute when Sarah Puntigam’s clean half-volley shivered a right with Frohms beaten.

It had become the contest everyone had dreamed of, and certainly one that needed little help from the Mexican wave that set in shortly after the hour mark.

Popp eyed a loose header from a right wing cross before substitute Linda Dallmann approached, ensuring the dates remained on the edge.

Bühl dived a wicked 20 yards atop the bar with 11 minutes to go. She then missed a keeper and the fact that this game only produced one goal continued to come across as a trick of the mind.

When he produced another, the hapless Zinsberger kicked Popp another kick and watched as the ricochet shattered Austria’s hopes.

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