The “final countdown” of the Swedish rock band “Europa” began choreographing the evening of the European Championship showcase between Sweden and Austria, which was called for a preliminary decision. But ÖFB can now count down: there are only two points missing from final qualification, and indeed the red, white and red could be in a good mood after a hard-fought but ultimately clear 3-1 win.
Knowing they might have to take what could be their last chance, the home side tried to go on the attack. They stood very high and gave the Austrian defense a lot of penetration at high speed from the start. In short, there was a lot going on on the field surrounded by a sea of yellow at Friends Arena. Ralf Rangnick’s team survived the sometimes difficult first half hour with luck and skill and tried to find relief in a playful way. The break in Swedish momentum was only partially successful, construction caused problems and there were no breaks. “In the first half, when we had the ball, we didn’t really do what we wanted to do on the pitch. In the second half, we put Gregerl (Gregoric, NB) in the goal, which served us well. We had possession after “It’s more on the ball and we switched in moments.”
The first half is difficult
After a good chance for Konrad Laimer, the Austrian defense quickly lost composure repeatedly. The guests were lucky because first Viktor Guikiris missed the ball from seven metres, then Alexander Isak’s header from a dangerous position was not strong enough, and finally Dejan Kulusevski’s shot missed the target. The Austrians had the opportunity to counter that with a very entertaining and varied opening phase from Marcel Sabitzer and a brilliant direct pass from Marko Arnautović. Inter Legionnaire’s shot was difficult to block, but it rebounded.
The visitors were forced to concede several corner kicks and faced a major problem just before the half-time whistle when the ball did not reach the net after a free kick from the very powerful Kulusevski. Ralf Rangnick, who changed the starting line-up seven positions compared to the test match against Moldova, looked anxious at times. A goalless draw in the first half was not a negative from Austria’s point of view.
Great second round
The nature of the game had to change and the weight shift was a success. The Swedes’ momentum probably faded a bit and then the Austrians held their nerve. Michael Gregoritsch headed in a well-thought-out cross from Stefan Bosch for a 1-0 lead (53). “We are very happy and very happy. I think (the goal that made it 1-0) was the opener. We were not good in the first half, we had a little bit of luck in one situation or another. But we had no feeling,” the Freiburg striker said. That things could go against us. The team is stable and very good. You can see how everyone sticks together.” The Swedes looked shocked and the visitors did a great job of exploiting the confusion in the home defence. Marko Arnautovic made it 2-0 after just three minutes after a brilliant counter-attack and a pass from Sabitzer.
The match was finally over and in sight was a repeat of the celebratory performance of eight years ago, with which Austria had already clawed their way into the finals of Euro 2016. First Gregoric missed a typical counter-attack, then Filip Moeni was taken off his feet in the penalty area and Arnautovic scored from the penalty spot. To make the score 3-0. Holm’s 3-1 win comes too late – Austria celebrates.
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