UTRECHT, July 24, 2017 – The UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 has four debutants this year and Austria are one of them. After their first round win against Switzerland it became clear – all the chances were there for them to qualify to the quarter-finals. In their second match against favourites France on Saturday, Austria took one more step towards that dream by securing that one crucial point against France. After the final whistle they celebrated the draw with their fans as if it were a win.
Austrian striker Liza Makas scored in the 27nd minute, but six minutes after the interval French midfielder Amandine Henry put the ball into her opponents’ net – 1:1.
Nevertheless, Austria’s two matches so far showed that the team are ready to go further than just frustrating one of the main title contenders. The Player of the Match against France was Austria’s Nicole Billa, who explained the importance of the hard fought draw.
“France are the biggest and strongest team in our group and one of the best in the world, whereas we are underdogs. It is very important and pleasant for us to have four points in the group now. The last ten minutes of the match were very nervous even on the substitution bench.
“We practiced being under constant pressure during training sessions, so we were able to manage France’s attacks, – Billa said with a bright smile.
In the final group match, Austria need a win against Iceland to assure a placein quarter-finals. Coach Dominik Thalhammer confirmed his team would not be taking any chances.
“Of course, our chances to get to the quarter-finals are now rising. However, we want to concentrate on Iceland first and get ready for the last group match. Moreover, we want to get some players fit. Victoria Schnaderbeck was suffering at the end of the match again and we think there should have been a red card [for the foul on her]. Now we have to see how serious the injury is,” Thalhammer said.
Understandably so, French coach Olivier Echouafni was not satisfied with the result, but refused to think of it as a defeat.
“I feel a bit frustrated because we deserved a victory. We knew Austria would sit back on the pitch, and they had a very fixed strategy. Despite this, we could have and should have scored more and won. I am not disappointed, but I am frustrated with the result”, – Echouafni said.
The French coach also commented on some of the weaknesses of his team that had been exposed and addressed the shift in the game pattern change in the second half:
“Maybe, if we had scored first, the game would have been completely different. I think that team was less relaxed during the first half because of the pressure. We did not manage to score in situations we worked on during training,” Echouafni added.
After the second match day, Austria and France are joint top of a tight Group C with four points each, Switzerland are in third place with three points. Iceland have no points and have lost all chances of qualifying for quarter-finals.
Switzerland, France and Austria will each fight for a spot in the quarter-finals in the last round scheduled for Wednesday, July 26.
Follow Alina Matinian on Twitter @aamatinyan