2017 European Championships:
Denmark – Austria 3:0 a.p.

Situation:

The preview here has a more detailed description of the situation. In short, both teams are rather heavy surprising to appear in the semis. Denmark had been there already 5 times. And was ranked 8th of 16 the participating teams. So seen from the beginning of the tournament it wasn’t as surprising as Austria who was ranked 14th out of the 16. But Austria had been the better team during the tournament so far. Winning the group against France and Switzerland and ousting Spain in the quarters. Denmark have never played very well. Needing some lucky events to go through a group that on the other hand was by far the best. Then came the huge victory against Germany in the quarters but unfortunately also not based on a very convincing performance. But they had been very consistent and never had a bad day. So Austria were favorites, but only by a very slim margin.

Headline: 6th time lucky Denmark

Five times they had gone out in the semis. Four years ago on penalties. Now finally through on penalties. Denmark are in the final for their first time. That is what counts at the end of the day. And that is another big sign of how much pro women’s football has male-ified. A fact realized rather by many comments and heared often as a classification description.
However quite interestingly not only meant 100% positive. And would you believe it. Where have we got? Women’s football bemoaning already having got too close to men’s now?

The match wasn’t a beauty. How many semis are in such championships? It was all about the end product. And Austria was denied arguably the first time of asking when they were the better individuals out there on the pitch. Another hint of the football gods?
But maybe they just thought it was enough now for Denmark to suffer semi final losses. The weakest team of their group and the weakest team of the final eight are in the final. What a fantastic achievement by them to overcome all this nevertheless. And well deserved.

What happened on the pitch

We could go straight through to penalties. The thought of maybe a majority of the neutral spectators after the 90 minutes. Maybe some weren’t too keen to see another 30 minutes of that match because it wasn’t what you call a firework of actions and thrilling scenes in front of the goals.
The entertainment highlight probably had been coming rather early on. Penalty for Austria after a handball you probably well could whistle. Though some details might have been seen controversial regarding the intent behind it.
Sarah Puntigam missed the target but it was the second penalty out of three so far in this tournament that was not converted against Denmark and it took you wonder Austria hadn’t expected at that point already going to penalties would be like their death sentence.
Make that only one penalty out of 6 taken against Denmark converted about two hours later. Maybe it was mainly the penalty department of the football gods committee who made their votes count.
But that shouldn’t take too much away from the fact that Denmark had to and did work very hard to get to this point where the football gods finally had to decide who would be finalists.
And they didn’t need the gods department for misuse of chances to help as much as in their previous matches in the tournament.
Because they could manage to allow their opponents less chances in this semi final than in any other previous match. But certainly here fatigue of the Austrian team played a major role. You had to expect that. The gods for misuse of mixing up your starting eleven had played a major role already in this tournament.
They had punished for example teams like Germany and France or Spain for shaking up their starters instead of building a coherent unit where every player knew how the team mates to the left and the right would react.
Austria and Denmark in contrary had nearly not changed their starters at all and this match again showed how much instead thus developed very coherent and compact teams. But after some weeks of double the usual stress alone by the amount of matches played (leave alone the different level and the mental side) it was clear that the players are no more as fresh and as sharp as at the beginning of the tournament. Maybe that was the reason Austria voted not to press Denmark as stringently as they did in the last preparation match where they had beaten them very convincingly.
But even more the exhaustion got evident often at the very end of all the action on the field: The final pass or even more the final shot. Which – of course – is the latest culmination point where you have put in all the efforts to get there but still also need a high voltage from your batteries to deliver a quality final touch of the end product.
Austria had even some nice combinations in the first half to combine their way through into the opposite box and into not a bad shooting position. But the shots went rather heavily wrong.
Often a dependable sign to realize it just wasn’t possible to peak anymore for a lot of the players. Interestingly the highest rated player on the pitch – Pernille Harder – who probably was amongst those who had run the most already so far in the tournament and in this match still seemed one of the most energized also still at the very end of extra time compared to others and could even increase her influence. And so also the also booked the last chance of the match.

But a goal also wasn’t to happen for her and thus to a penalty shoot out we went once again. And that was the end of Austria’s wonderful journey. The gods made it rather clear who has the say in a penalty shoot out. Having converted all five against Spain a few days ago Austria didn’t score even once. And Denmark got through to the final in their sixth try.

Tactics

Denmark - Austria tactical line-up
tactical line-up

Everything pretty much like expected and like we had it already: Bar some of the usual smaller shifts the biggest change came for Austria who had to choose how to replace left midfielder Makas who got injured against Spain. Unlike the substitution against Spain they here moved in center back Kirchberger instead. And moved Schnaderback up from center back into number 6. Probably to better the fight against the opposite 10 Harder. A smart move though Harder didn’t come up agaist Schnaderbeck very often. But Kirchberger played a very solid game once again.
Unfortunately though sub Nadine Prohaska had to be called into action before half time once again. This time to replace injured Nicole Billa.
The starting line-ups:
Austria: Schiechtl – Wenninger – Kirchberger – Aschauer. Call it the midfield row if you want but with : Feiersinger – Schnaderbeck – Zadrazil – Puntigam – Billa. And Burger up top.
Denmark: Nielsen – Boye – Larsen – Roddik. You can call it the midfield from right to left: Troelsgaard – Kildemoes – Jensen – Veje. Nadim up front at the shoulder of the opposite center backs and Harder in between trying to put it all together in the offense.

Very similarly both played very deep sitting center mids (or number 6 positions) making sure the defenses were kept tight and in the primary center of interest. A central disadvantage for Austria that should be. Because for the (arguably) first time they had probably the (arguably) better individuals on the pitch. And there they had a big advantage over the Danish duo. But the team was just no more able to use that advantage.
On a side note the Danish team again played so concentrated in the middle that Austria would have needed to use both flanks to spread the Danish center either way to expose the weaknesses there. But minor tries that shuffled a little bit around the ways that wing backs Aschauer (Austria) and Nielsen (Denmark) got forward weren’t really played with enough determination and energy to show any consequence in the opposite half.

Summary and Resume

Austria was not a one day wonder and their success not based on a lucky streak in this tournament (like e.g. Sweden during the Olympics or Denmark during this). And though they are not a bunch of youngsters any more (like the UEFA suggested probably because they hadn’t known the players so far) the most players will stay around for yet another few years. They mainly lacked experience and like England their line-up, Austria found the right balance in their set-up too late.
Both had no time to practice this situation before and thus had no plan B based on it. They simply got too tired and lacked alternatives up front as soon as Burger was unable to make a successful break through all alone. We will never know here but using fresh legs usually is the better alternative. You tend to compare the “normal” level of the tired player too much. Often the cleverness and ability to use your good touch even when not fresh anymore at the end of a game of 90 minutes is underestimated. But there is a point when fatigue is getting too big.
But Austria have got the balance for their pressing much better now. And they finally found out how essential it is to base it on a solid back line rather than doing the wild west in running around in the opposite half as before and even in the last preparation matches. That was the main reason they weren’t seen as the good team they can be before the tournament.
They might not be able to beat France or Spain regularly from now on but they might be able to exchange being in pot 4 for this draw and fight for getting into pot 2 next time instead. But they have unfortunately got not very lucky with the WC qualification draw against Spain. But they might get the most copied team of the EC as well.

Denmark are deservedly through to the final and you feel kind of it would make sense for the gods to go all the way in this tournament and make the break through complete of the underdogs against the women’s football establishment.
And just as good as the Netherlands have been able to beat England on a good day Denmark are good enough to beat the Netherlands. But they might need to make the most of their aces and the other players. Unfortunately Nadia Nadim’s high against Germany had already half gone again (though she admittedly faced tougher opponents here) And Pernille Harder is still rarely played into situations where she can be of the most danger for the opposite defense. We have seen lots of managers though and lots of players during this tournament who didn’t quite get their tactics right. Harder we have often seen getting it better then most others. So probably she is able to feel what the right thing is to do. And if she is playing that far away from the opposite goal most of the time it is probably because she is afraid of getting not much balls if she stays further up front. But that would still be better.
However. Denmark has not been far away from stopping the Dutch in the group match and we have seen much bigger surprises happen in this tournament than a Danish win would be.

 


Player Ratings:

DENMARK:

Petersen: 6.5
There was really not much to do

Nielsen: 7
Again rather agile after the goal against Germany

Boye Sorensen: 7
Solid center back without big test

Larsen: 7
Like her center back partner

Roddik: 6.5
Stable in defense.

Troelsgaard: 6.5
Rather active part of the midfield

Jensen: 6
Solid role in the center

Kildemoes: 6
Solid part of the game but not more

Veje: 7
Grid fight on the left flank

Harder: 7.5
Again very active but again far away from the goal

Nadim: 6
Not much to see but a difficult role for her

AUSTRIA:

Zinsberger: 7.5
Very solid and free of errors

Schiechtl: 7
Solid defense blocked her side

Wenninger: 7
Mostly solid center back play

Kirchberger: 7
Also solid in the center

Aschauer: 7
Produced the technical highlights

Puntigam: 6.5
Helped the defense stay compact.

Schanderbeck: 6.5
Not quite yet back in form of old

Zadrazil: 6.5
Solid work but tiring as well.

Billa: 6.5
Left too early

Burger: 6.5
Tried a lot but to no avail

Feiersinger: 7
Top work rate but no final product

 

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