It is the meeting of two nations that know each other very well. Their respective strengths, but also their weaknesses. Germany and Austria will meet in the quarter-finals of the European Football Championship on Thursday (9 p.m., ARD and Dazn) at the Brentford Community Stadium. It is the very first competitive game against each other and only the third duel overall.
The game could also be described as a Bundesliga duel. 21 players from the German squad played in the top German league last season – and 13 from the Austrian squad. Above all, Eintracht Frankfurt has some players in both teams, such as the German national goalkeeper Merle Frohms, who switched from Frankfurt to VfL Wolfsburg after the European Championship: “It’s special that you meet so many familiar faces. That’s why it will certainly be a strange feeling to meet on the other half of the square,” says the 27-year-old. “But of course that can also be an advantage because we know how the players tick. Barbara’s (Barbara Dunst, editor’s note) long-range shots, for example, are well known to me, so I’ll be able to prepare for them.”
It is only the second European Championship for Austria and again the team of national coach Irene Fuhrmann reached the knockout round. In 2017 it failed in the semi-finals of the European Championship against Denmark. Austria was only able to make it clear that they would take part in the final round in the last group match against Norway with a 1-0 win. In view of the strong group with Northern Ireland, hosts England and Norway, getting into the knockout phase is already a great success.
Above all, the Austrians are characterized by a strong team spirit. “Austria are very clear about the team structure. There are an incredible number of pictures and videos of them partying and having fun together,” explains Frohms. In the end, however, it will depend on the quality on the pitch and not “who celebrates better,” says DFB defender Sara Doorsoun.
Austria mainly play their game from a compact defense and don’t need many chances to score goals. In the course of the tournament, however, the Austrians became increasingly self-confident in the game and sometimes ran up to their opponents. By winning the ball deep in the opposing half, Austria didn’t have a long way to go to the opposing goal. In this way, the team was able to make up for their alleged lack of creativity. With this game idea, the Austrians were also successful against Norway and had an unusual number of chances.
Between defense and offense, Sarah Puntigam is a key player, playing in France’s Division 1 Féminine for Montpellier. The 29-year-old is Austria’s record player and sets the pace, pressing moments and attacking actions from the headquarters. On the offensive, Dunst and Laura Feiersinger from Eintracht Frankfurt as well as Sarah Zadrazil from Bayern Munich are the target players, who in turn should serve Nicole Billa up front.
Billa is active at TSG Hoffenheim, won the top scorer in the Bundesliga a year ago and was also named footballer of the year in Germany in the same year. The German defense must pay special attention to them, even if they only scored their first European Championship goal in the last group game against Norway. The 26-year-old Tyrolean celebrated her debut goal in a finals in Austria’s 1-0 win at the end of Group A against Norway. “I’m glad it finally happened, my first EM goal feels wonderful,” said the ÖFB top striker.
With coach Irene Fuhrmann, they have someone who has been working on the coaching team of the Austrian national team since 2008 and has been head coach since 2020. She lets her team play very flexibly and likes to vary defensively between a chain of three or five and a chain of four.
On the German side, goal scorer Lea Schüller could return to the squad after surviving the corona infection. The two yellow card suspensions Lena Oberdorf and Felicitas Rauch will definitely be there again. They were successfully replaced by Sophia Kleinherne and Lena Lattwein against Finland, but should still be in the starting XI again. The recently injured Lina Magull from FC Bayern is also expected to return to midfield.
Austria will come to Brentford with a lot of euphoria, but the German players should also be confident after the flawless preliminary round. The DFB-Elf convinced in terms of football, with a lot of fighting spirit, enthusiasm and a good mentality. “You could see that the team works incredibly well, and players who come off the bench also stand behind you. It’s incredibly fun to play with such a spirit and team spirit,” said national coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. “I am very relaxed because I am very sure that we will perform well. If we’re awake straight away, then we’re just fine.”
But Voss-Tecklenburg also knows about Austria’s quality: “It’s not going to be a walk in any direction.” In addition, Germany could still have their record in knockout games in the last major tournaments in mind. At the EM 2017 in the Netherlands, the DFB selection failed on the way to the semi-finals at Denmark, at the World Cup 2019 in France at Sweden.
The German team has proven in the course of the tournament so far that it is mentally strong and is considered the clear favourite. It will be a challenge for the Germans to break through Austria’s defence. In the last few games, the DFB-Elf around Alexandra Popp, Svenja Huth and Magull showed great variability, which should be difficult to defend. The question is whether Germany can show that in the quarter-finals to reach a semi-final again in a major tournament.