The preview here has a more detailed description of the situation. In short, Austria are the surprise package of these European Championships. But the surprise is three fold at least (see further down) or has even more aspects – a lot more. They are playing team football with (finally?) a brain against individual football with athletes. Helped them top their group in front of France, Switzerland and Iceland – all ranked much higher in the FIFA women’s football world rankings.
And Spain are representing Spanish football style: technical ball control at its best. But scoring goals seen as a rather inconvenient necessity. Earned the Algarve Cup winners second place in their group – but only just. Ending group matches with a defeat at the hands (or legs rather) of Scotland.
Headline: Austria does it again
We wanted the headline dedicated to Austria because they deserved it. But the bigger part in this result might have once again played the strange management of one of the top teams. We headlined “Spain also handicapped” first. But we decided rather to give credit to Austria because you have to make the deficits of your opponents count first. Exactly what Spain was unable to do once again.
Who would sub out the teams biggest threat when you are still at 0:0 in a European Championship quarter final match with 20 minutes to go and perhaps extra time? Not that Vicky Losada was the biggest threat obviously. Others might have been there as well. But Losada is simply playing even quite on a different level compared to some of the players coach Vilda chose for the decisive minutes.
Surely – Spain might have not scored with Losada as well. But this is simply the best example how the game went: Austria was simply clever enough to use the errors of the Spanish set up to their full advantage. Something a lot of teams seemingly haven’t understood. Maybe not how to use it in favor of the own team nor how Austria did it.
What happened on the pitch
The game started with a bang. Or the announcement of the line ups long before the match already started with a bang. The Spanish management had made some changes. Not the worst thing to do. But. No wonder given their track record of strange choices they choose a strange mix of four players to be replaced in the true sense of the word right across the pitch. And their changes came into effect immediately. You guess it:
Nearly absolutely nothing of it worked and the once fluent game looked disjointed. Austria was easily able to keep Spain under control with some ease. Absolutely nothing noteworthy happened on the pitch. You expected it would be a waiting game and not very exciting to watch Spain look for the gap in the Austrian defense playing a fluent passing game at least outside of the dangerous area.
But with this Spanish team it became clear very soon even that wasn’t happening any more. The two front line players they introduced additionally to get more presence up front on the shoulder of the Austrian back line simply didn’t connect with the rest at all.
You could follow this game with half an eye only. It was difficult to recall any eventful scene already at half time from the first half just gone by.
Austria was clever enough to stay deep most of the time and keep their pressing patches very short and selective. They were in full control of anything that happened in their final third. And turned the patient waiting game the other way round: Make sure you don’t concede and wait patiently for the chance you might get sooner or later.
And that pattern went on and on and on and on. The reasonable thing to do for Austria. The useless thing to do for Spain. They didn’t change it a bit. And when they did late in the game their usual patterns of play had already long been abandoned and everything looked half-hearted and completely disjointed already.
At least we have to say on the positive side for Spain they didn’t allow Austria to score as well. Professionally done by the back line. But they had mostly been used four against Austrias lonesome single Burger up front. So there was plenty of energy left in the batteries even after they left the tournament.
So Austria looked even the more likely to score especially pushed on by Laura Feiersinger who we have rarely seen play that well since her good old days at Bayern a few years ago. She seemed to be always there when something was there for the hunt and was a pain in the neck for Spain all the time all over the place.
But nevertheless there were not many chances and not enough for Austria either.
Nothing else would have matched the game better than to be decided by penalties.
5 goals from the spot for Austria were as perfect as the game plan during the 120 minutes and finally enough to punish one fault too many from Spain to go through to the semis.
Greece 2004 anyone?
Only 2 more to go for coach Dominik Thalhammer to become the Otto Rehhagel of women’s football 😉 .
Austria played the usual team with Schnaderbeck back as center back. The back line thus Schiechtl – Wenninger – Schnaderbeck – Aschauer. Puntigam and Zadrazil as holding mids close to the back line. eiersinger working the right side and Makas the left. Billa between midfield and the lonesome fighter Burger up front.
Spain played with Corredera – Torrejon – Paredes – Maria Leon in the nominal back line. Meseguer the number 6. Losada also not very far up front in the midfield. Sampedro at a lot of places further up the field and Caldentey her usual interesting role for what no standard name is yet available. Holding right wing would be something to think about for the positional fetishists. But that shouldn’t mean this is a bad thing to do. We would suggest more should copy it with some optimizing tweaks. What was rather clear though was that Maria Paz tried to be as much in the center of the attacking line as possible and Latorre tried to stay far up front on the left wing.
Let us have a look at the interesting tactical plan Spain did try to apply.
Let us assume you have a wonderful Spanish car that looks good, glides smoothly over the streets, delivers a comfortable stay for the passengers. Only problem is you need too long to get from Barcelona to Madrid because the maximum speed it reaches is 80 kilometers an hour and you don’t know why.
– Then you go to a garage and ask for a fix so you have the possibility to go faster. If the other day you come back and the garage – full of positive expectations of course – would have overpainted your car and changed the color from red to yellow, applied new windscreen wipers, exchanged the rear mirrors with bigger ones and switched the left front wheel to right back and vice versa.
You shouldnt be too disappointed when the speed isn’t going up significantly – and have a look if there is a sign with the name Vilda anywhere in front of the garage possibly.
Or let us put it in other words. Of all the entertaining management actions delivered during these European women’s football championships this one deserved one of the top spots without a doubt.
The initial intentions might have been even not that bad and at least a try to tackle the deficits the team had shown so far getting more dangerous in front of the opposite goal. Some might have been even worth a try. Barbara Latorre for example could have been a useful addition to make use of the lack of speed of the Austrian wing backs. She is a smart player though not very experienced and always looking for through balls played to run into the space behind a defense. Something that was massively missing in the Spanish game.
But Austria is also smart in preventing them to be used successfully. Bringing in such a type of player in the starting line up also requires others that are looking to play these balls. But LaTorre might have had not many matches in her whole career where she got so few balls.
Even more interesting was the situation on Spains right wing. Marta Corredera was playing wing back there. Basically not a bad idea to have a speedy wing back available to additionally run down the side line. But what about the execution? It can’t work when the player in front of you kind of blocks the right wing all the time.
And so you saw that all didn’t work the way it was executed at all rather obviously after a few minutes already. You could have said let us try another five – or even ten. But no changes to the better were made more or less the whole 120 minutes.
That all left Austrias defense making light work out of the Spanish team – or the rest of the single parts of it. And they stayed patient not trying their fate too much. Players like Losada or Latorre or later Hermoso are able to make you pay in the blink of an eye if you are not aware of the danger and they are very used to similar situations from their matches with FC Barcelona in the Spanish league.
Fun fact is that in the Spanish FA obviously the decisive people cant see if they had taken Vero Boquete as coach – one of the players Vilda chose to leave at home – they would have been through to the final with great probability.
Summary and Resume
Austria go on to play Denmark now. And go into the game as clear favorites? They have beaten Denamrk in the last warm up match before the championships quite convincingly. And it will be again very interesting to see how they play the Danes. In the warm up match beating them by means of a rather uncompromising pressing game. Something they had learned here to use in the right doses. Will they go for full throttle again? And how much could they still. The advantage of not messing around so much with the line up like some top teams is now bringing the problem that the players get tired. Certainly a key how much the new euphoria will carry them over that. But the very same will be true for their opponents Denmark.
Spain on the other side have shown what they are capable of against England. That means the Spanish players have shown what they are capable of. But also the management has shown it. Only in a different direction. As soon as they will get that sorted – like England by suddenly finding a fitting set up, or changing the management – they will be right up there and among the very big favorites for 2019.
We decided it would be better not to use this for this match.
For Spain we already mentioned the example of LaTorre. She had no impact on the match. But it wasnt her fault but the management to blame. You more feel sorry for her she got no chance. She didnt even play bad. She just got not involved. We mentioned Corredera who had to play a useless role as well. And from the others it is difficult to tell to what degree a management problem was the reason they had to play the way they did.
For Austria we mentioned Feiersinger with a very active match. But the most players have been part of a compact defensive block where it would need very long video studies to determine the performance of each individual because all was woven tightly together and is very what