What a game. Germany were tested in the EURO 2022 quarterfinals — more than that, they were pushed to the brink. Yet in the most quintessentially German of ways, after 90 minutes, they walked away with the win. After some time to process a truly stress-inducing affair, here’s our match observations and highlights.
First, though, a moment in remembrance of Germany great Uwe Seeler. The legendary striker passed away on the day of the match, aged 85, and the Germans’ black armbands were worn in his honor.
A story that might have ended very differently
Bayern Munich winger Klara Bühl got a chance to laugh in the end, to some good-natured chiding from teammates. She’d just missed a tap-in after Alexandra Popp laid it on a plate for her in front of goal (though her subsequent substitution was unrelated; Jule Brand’s number had already been called) — and the stadium operators kept putting her on the focus cam. Had she scored, she would have put the game away in its dying minutes. Instead, Bühl and her teammates had to sweat it out a little more.
As it turned out, only a little more, as the 2-0 was soon to come.
Germany may have romped their way through the group stages, but Austria showed up with sizzle. Not even Spain looked this persistent a threat. In that game, Germany had ceded possession but cut out most of Spain’s chances, allowing them to circulate the ball, but largely fruitlessly. Against Austria, the Germans struggled to clear the ball out of danger, showing some unsettling shakiness at the back. Shot after shot clattered against the German posts, and the Austrians would finish the game over 1.0 xG by some tabulations.
There are positive ways to view this. Having endured the crucible, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s squad should be steeled and ready for their next test. Credit to an Austrian team that laid it all on the line and fought to the last.
As for Bühl, she can take the ribbing in stride — especially after being voted a deserving Player of the Match.
Exquisite and intricate teamwork lead the way
The 25th-minute breakthrough happened after Alexandra Popp’s pressure on keeper Manuela Zinsberger led to an errant kick (put a pin in that, we’ll be circling back). The lightning break showed how lethal Germany are in transition, and also what a high level of understanding the players have together on the pitch. When it does all come together, it’s a joy to watch.
It’s more than individual quality, which of course is there in spades — Germany’s wingers in particular have terrorized the flanks all tournament, and Klara Bühl was no exception here. It’s the awareness, the instant recognition, the interplay. Popp’s quick-thinking dummy gave the on-rushing Lina Magull a clean, clean shot on goal, which she emphatically buried.
Magull, by the way, has a strong case to be one of Germany’s players of the tournament. But something’s popped up...
An eye-Poppin’ press
...and that is the ineffable greatness of Alexandra Popp. It wasn’t always clear she’d make these EUROs, and she wasn’t first in line to start. But she’s here now and is doing a lot more for Germany than poaching goals. The fiery captain raises the level of everyone around her.
Characteristically, Popp once again found herself with a goal.
Germany’s energetic press has on the whole been a lot for teams to handle, and this game was no exception. Even in phases of the game where Germany seemed to lose rhythm and coherency, they could be counted on to routinely force errors in Austria’s half — then, once the ball was won, they’d turn on the jets. More than once they either hit the post or skied it high in a moment where they probably should have done better in the final third.
But finally, in the 90th minute, their striker and captain came through. Popp had lurked around Zinsberger all night, cutting her passing angles and putting under pressure a keeper who seemed to dawdle on the ball just a little too long each time. Yet Austria kept trying to play from the back, and paid for it in spectacular fashion. It was also an astute piece of scouting and coaching work:
A gut punch for Austria, but another shot fired from the German cannons. Popp is indefatigable, and if not, there’s Lea Schüller. Klara Bühl ran Austria ragged, and when she came off, the lively Jules Brand was instantly in her place. This team has the reserves to keep the petal to the metal for the full 90.
Full highlights & look ahead
Germany will now play in the semi-finals of the EURO for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments. It’ll be the same game time next Wednesday, July 27, against either France or the Netherlands. If they win that, it’ll be back to the finals on July 31.
Who was your player of the match? Which team would be the ideal next opponent?