TILBURG, July 30, 2017 - The very fact that a debut Austria side had made it into the last eight of the UEFA Women’s EURO has been described as a “midsummer night’s dream” by local media. Sunday night’s quarterfinals against Spain however, seemed more like a dream where you walk on and on in endless expanse without ever reaching your destination. Austria was the better of the two sides after a goalless battle of mental strength and wit ended in a penalty shootout, with Austrian goalkeeper Zinsberger the hero.
For Spain, who lost the shootout 5:3, the EURO dream is over. Newcomers Austria however, are still in the game and will be looking to hold on to their Sommermärchen for a little while longer.
Both during the regular time and the additional time, the teams seemed frightened – not only of scoring but of winning. As if the pressure of ever-growing expectations on one side and the looming final failure on the other posed a serious challenge for both teams.
The first 20 minutes saw clear initiative and possession for Spain, with the best in a string of chances coming in the 7th minute when Irene Paredes had a shot stopped from a close range after a corner. The Austrian came into the match as the first half wore on, putting in a solid performance, but one that could not live up to the expectations set after their revelation performances in the group stage.
The latter part of the first half did not see an increase of chances, however, it did see more fouls as the players seemed more anxious to avoid going into the second half with a 0-0 scoreline. Austria’s number 10 Laura Makas had to be substituted right before half-time after a thoughtless foul from
The second half saw a more collected Austrian team who pressed forward a little more aggressively but still could not pose a serious threat to the Spanish keeper Sandra Panos. A a well-executed combination play from Laura Feiersinger and Nina Burger followed by a header from Nadine Prohaska with 20 minutes to go was one of the only clear chances seen in a calculated match.
Austrian keeper Manuela Zinsberger saw even less considerable threats, although the Spaniards still kept the ball in their characteristic possession style. Spain’s star striker Vicky Losada, was substituted by Alexia Putellas shortly before the 70th minute. Missing their goalscorer from the match against Portugal, the Spanish attack seemed to have even less bite. Apart from a good chance in the 82nd minute by Amanda Sampedro who was flagged offside, the second half still presented a sleepy stumble in defense rather than a dream play by either side.
As fans in Tilburg witnessed the first extra time of the competition, both teams showed more of the same. The chances seen on either side were not dangerous enough to get bring back the atmosphere from the start, as the timid back and forth continued. A nervy counter attack from Olga Garcia in the 23rd minute of additional time was the best of modest display, where the Spaniard lost her nerve, and chance to but the match to bed as she shot the over the post. With the minutes to a penalty shootout counting down, the teams seemed even more toothless than in regular time.
The unsurprising end of additional time saw the announcement of a penalty shootout. This was the first time the teams stepped up and showed fearlessness in facing the biggest psychological challenge.
It was the Austrian side that extra bit of bite as goalkeeper Zinsberger stopped Silvia Meseguer’s shot, paving the way for Viktoria Pinther and Sarah Puntigam to confirm a victorous 5 – 3 penalty display. The Austrians will be unwilling to wake up from their EURO dream just yet as they face another surprise outfit Denmark in the semifinals on Thursday.
Follow Clara Reimitz on Twitter @CMReimitz