Austria 0 Germany 1
MICHAEL BALLACK booked Germany’s place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 after his thunderbolt free-kick earned victory in a hot-tempered clash against co-hosts Austria.
The Chelsea midfielder has been unhappy with his performances in the tournament so far but returned to the form of the last six months of the domestic season, lashing into the top corner just after the break at Vienna’s Ernst Happel Stadium.
It sets up a last-eight clash against his new club boss Luiz Felipe Scolari, who will fulfil his Portugal duties before being unveiled at Stamford Bridge later this summer.
Ballack’s national coach, however, may not be in the dressing room at Basel’s St Jakob-Park on Thursday.
Joachim Low, along with Austria counterpart Josef Hickersberger, were sent to the stands four minutes before the break after bickering among themselves and with the fourth official. UEFA are likely to review the incident, with dismissals normally carrying a touchline ban.
It was one flashpoint in a match full of needle, with confrontations dotted around the pitch to produce another clash to add to the rich history in the fixture between the neighbouring countries.
Germany’s passage would have been made easier had Mario Gomez not wasted an open goal early on.
Gomez’s blunder came in the fifth minute after Miroslav Klose had composed himself in the area and crossed to present the chance to his strike partner.
The Stuttgart forward would not have been given an easier opportunity in his career but he spooned his finish, allowing just enough time for Gyorgy Garics to get back and head off his own line.
After weathering the storm from Germany, Austria created danger of their own.
Erwin “Jimmy” Hoffer, an unused substitute in Austria’s first two games, had a penalty appeal turned down when Christoph Metzelder wrestled with him in the area.
Then Hoffer’s touch betrayed him when Martin Harnik crossed to find him beyond Germany’s defence.
The game was always close to boiling over, and Lukas Podolski went down after an off-the-ball clash with Rene Aufhauser, then went eyeball to eyeball with Emanuel Pogatetz.
The constant bickering on the sidelines got the coaches dismissed just before the break, with Low picking up his blazer and heading for the stands as if sent out of class.
Goalkeepers have complained about balls moving in the air too much but Ballack’s free-kick was pure power and was still rising as it hit the top corner.
Despite belying their position of 92nd in the FIFA world rankings, Austria’s campaign then ran out of steam.
AUSTRIA: Macho, Garics, Stranzl, Hiden (Leitgeb 55), Pogatetz, Harnik (Kienast 67), Aufhauser (Saumel 63), Ivanschitz, Fuchs, Korkmaz, Hoffer.
GERMANY: Lehmann, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm, Fritz (Borowski 90), Frings, Ballack, Podolski (Neuville 83), Gomez (Hitzlsperger 60), Klose.
Referee: Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain)
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