EURO 2008

Ballack fires Germany into the quarter-finals

Germany qualified for the quarter-finals by claiming second place in Group B beating Austria 1-0. In the other game Croatia became the first country to win three consecutive games, securing first place after its 1-0 victory over Poland.


Co-hosts Austria toiled and probed but Germany's class told in a 1-0 Euro 2008 Group B victory secured by Michael Ballack's freekick here Monday that put the European powerhouses into the quarter-finals.

Austria needed to win to keep their participation alive but while they produced an energetic performance, they never showed the quality needed to beat their favoured opponents, although on their last two showings few teams will fear Germany.

In an intriguing contest both Austria coach Josef Hickersberger and his German counterpart Joachim Loew were comically sent off following a furious row with the fourth official.

Ballack said the match had been tough and Germany could expect another difficult challenge with stylish Portugal next in line.

"It was a difficult game. It's always difficult in this position.

"We have a big target which is to go to the final. I feel we were a bit nervous," Ballack admitted.

Of his goal he told the BBC: "It was a good freekick. I hit the ball very well. It was an important win."

Regarding the Portuguese he added: "I think they played very well so far. I expect a big game - they are one of the favourites.

"It's a big, big game for us but we can relax now three days. We go step by step."

Defender Philipp Lahm said the stakes were high and Germany were inclined to be solid rather than spectacular - the goal aside.

"When a place in the last eight is at stake you can't gamble everything on one card. We were disciplined and organised - but we can still get better in every department."

Loew said he was happy with the outcome.

"I am pleased to garner this important win in a match where we were under enormous pressure."

On being sent to the stands he added: "I told the referee's assistant Josef Hickersberger we wanted quietly to get on with our coaching work in our zone and that's why we were both sent to the stand."

Hickersberger, opining that "we played quite well in this tournament,"  but added that "I still don't know what the future holds" regarding his next move.

Germany came flying out of the traps as Austria began nervously and after four minutes haphazard defending allowed Germany a three-on-one but Lukas Podolski dallied and the Austria defence got back to clear.

A minute later, Germany striker Mario Gomes was guilty of a shocking miss, spooning a shot from three yards out off his shin and high into the air before Gyorgy Garics got back to head it off the line.

Gomes then got clear down the left before shooting straight at Jurgen Macho in Austria's goal.

The co-hosts gradually settled and a mixture of bad luck and worse control prevented them from taking the lead.

On 18 minutes Christoph Metzelder was lucky to get away without conceding a penalty after dragging down Erwin Hoffer in the box.

A minute later and Hoffer was put clean through by Martin Harnik but an appalling first touch gave Jens Lehmann the chance to dash out and smother the danger.

Rene Aufhauser then forced Lehmann into a save before Macho tipped a fierce drive from Podolski around the post in an entertaining first period.

Five minutes before the break tempers frayed on the touchline between the rival coaches and the fourth official until referee Manuel Gonzalez of Spain took the draconian measure of sending both coaches to the stands.

Austria had a great chance just after the restart with a two-on-one break but Hoffer, who was more of a hindrance than a help in the most crucial moments, failed to release the nippy Umit Korkmaz and was dispossed by Per Mertesacker.

Germany made them pay dearly on 49 minutes after Andreas Ivanschitz had brought down the marauding Lahm and Ballack rifled home a bullet free-kick from almost 30 yards that fizzed past Macho into the top corner.

Austria were willing but offered little in terms of quality and Lehmann was rarely tested while at the other end Podolski shot just wide from long range on 54 minutes.

The co-hosts threw caution to the wind late on with Ivanschitz bustling through only to be denied by Lahm before Hoffer turned sharply but fired well wide from 12 yards.

And a minute from time Miroslav Klose should have buried the game for Germany but he shot straight at Macho before Torsten Frings and substitute Oliver Neuville both missed chances on the counter-attack.

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