Ballack strike sees Germany through, knocks out Austria
Germany moves on after a sensational goal from Ballack secures a win against Austria
Vienna -- A memorable goal from veteran captain Michael Ballack gave Germany a 1-0 win over Austria on Monday in a tense but low quality Euro 2008 clash.
The deserved defeat puts co-hosts Austria out of the tournament and sends Germany into a quarter-final encounter against Portugal in Basle on Thursday.
Ballack said that he was looking forward to the clash against the Portuguese, who have been one of the "in" sides of the tournament.
"I know them well. It is like a rematch of our game at the 2006 World Cup, and hopefully we will win again. They are a strong side, but we certainly have our chances," he said.
"The match against Austria was a difficult game for us because we had everything to lose, but we put up a great fight. We could have scored at the beginning, and then it would have been a lot calmer for us. There was a lot at stake, and we knew it would be a difficult game."
The co-hosts needed to win the game and hope that Poland would not win by a higher score, but never looked capable of winning.
Coach Josef Hickersberger, who like German counterpart Joachim Loew was sent off in the first half, said that his side had not played poorly.
"We played quite well, but we weren't good enough up front at the end of the day. We didn't have too many chances, and Germany had a number of opportunities at the end when we threw everything forward," Hickersberger said.
"We lost to a sensational free kick from Ballack, and we have to say congratulations to that."
Loew declared himself "satisfied with the win, because there was enormous pressure on us."
Croatia - who beat Poland 1-0 in Klagenfurt - finish top of their group with nine points and will meet surprise package Turkey in the quarters.
Germany finished second with six points and will face Portugal.
Austria and Poland finished joint bottom of Group B with just one point apiece.
The Ernst Happel Stadion was packed to noisy capacity for the clash of neighbours but was soon silenced by the aggressive start made by the Germans.
The visitors should have gone ahead after just five minutes, but the hapless Mario Gomez astonishingly missed from just five metres, after being perfectly set up by Miroslav Klose.
It was the prelude to another dismal display from Gomez, one of the major flops of the tournament.
Just before half time, Spanish referee Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez bizarrely sent off both coaches for arguing with the fourth official.
Hickersberger and Loew had little choice but to go up to the VIP box, where Loew was welcomed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"I can't understand this," Loew said. "We are the coaches and only want to work in our coaching zone. That is our job. I only said to the fourth official we want to give our instructions. It is an important game, and we have the right to give instructions."
As both coaches were barred from attending the post-match press conference, Austrian assistant coach Andreas Herzog addressed journalists. He slammed the referee.
"It seems to me that the referee just wanted to be a big shot. He wanted to put himself in the picture," Herzog said. "He did not officiate poorly, but then he obviously wanted to be important."
Ballack put Germany ahead in the 49th minute by breaking the deadlock with a blistering, 25-metre belter, after a short free kick.
Germany should have scored more goals on the break. Austria battled manfully until the bitter end but relied more on hope than expectation.