BREDA, August 3, 2017 – When Austria and Denmark took up their positions for kickoff at the Rat Verlegh Stadium, Austrian goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger almost went to the wrong end of the pitch.
After the semi-final of UEFA Women's EURO 2017 against Denmark, once again decided by penalties after a goalless 120 minutes, this apparently harmless slip appears like a bad omen.
The mental strength of the Austrian team was the predominant topic of discussion after the shootout victory over Spain in the quarter-finals.
However, in Breda, their celebrated rock-like mentality found its limitation. After a missed penalty by Sarah Puntigam in the 13th minute, Austrian determination already seemed to waver. By the end of the additional 30 minutes, the players seemed exhausted both mentally and physically.
Coach Dominik Thalhammer said: “We could not handle the situation as well as other times. Of course, the pressure was different, after all this was the semi-final of the Euros.
"I think the first penalty which was missed by Sarah was the key element in this game. You could see how her performance suffered afterwards because she could not get it out of her head.”
Puntigam, who missed the penalty awarded for hand against Denmark's Maja Kildemoes, still sounded after the match as if she still could not believe it.
She said: “I was so certain before, the ball should have gone right in the corner. I am not sure what happened. During the game I tried to push it out of my head but the longer the match lasted the more difficult it got.”
Zinsberger, one of the best goalkeepers of the Euro, refused to blame that early setback.
She said: “The missed penalty by Sarah wasn´t on our minds at all, we win as a team and we lose as a team. That is the thing with penalties, sometimes it is simply luck that decides it.”
The role of luck might be disputed in this case however, after all, the Austrian players missed four penalties in a row.
Laura Feiersinger, daughter of former Borussia Dortmund player Wolfgang Feiersinger and who missed one of the three in the shootout, said: "I am not completely sure what happened, I had my plan how to shoot, but then it just went over the goal."
The way in which unwavering mental strength had featured in training made it even harder to watch the Austrians beaten by the Danes on penalties.
However Austria, as newcomers reaching the semifinals with an exceptional overall performance, will remember Euro 2017 fondly.
They must now make their way home from the Netherlands but this will surely not prove their last appearance on the international stage.
Follow Clara Reimitz on Twitter @cmreimitz