Austria will face Italy at Wembley in their first-ever European Championship knockout game after pipping Ukraine to the runners-up spot in Group C with a 1-0 victory in Bucharest.
Christoph Baumgartner wrote his name into Austrian folklore as his first-half strike secured the victory Franco Foda’s side needed to guarantee their place in the last 16 at the expense of Ukraine.
Ukraine merely needed to avoid defeat to secure second place behind group winners Holland, but Andriy Shevchenko’s side were plagued by a lack of attacking quality and mustered just a single attempt on target.
Austria’s second victory at a European Championship finals sets up a showdown with neighbours Italy in London on Saturday, while Ukraine face a nervous wait to see if they will progress to the last 16 as one of the tournament’s best third-placed sides.
Ukraine: Bushchan (6), Karavaev (5), Zabarnyi (5), Matviyenko (5), Mykolenko (5), Sydorchuk (5), Shaparenko (6), Zinchenko (5), Yarmolenko (6), Malinovskyi (3), Yaremchuk (5).
Subs: Tsygankov (6), Marlos (5), Besedin (n/a).
Austria: Bachmann (7), Lainer (7), Dragovic (7), Hinteregger (7), Alaba (8), Schlager (7), Laimer (7), Grillitsch (7), Baumgartner (8), Sabitzer (8), Arnautovic (7).
Subs: Schopf (7), Ilsanker (5), Kalajdzic (n/a).
Man of the Match: David Alaba.
Austria ease past Ukraine into knockout phase
With Austria needing a victory and Ukraine only requiring a draw to progress from Group C as runners-up, the emphasis was on the Austrians to grab the initiative, and they rose to the challenge, refusing to leave themselves at the mercy of the third-place lottery.
Talisman David Alaba was deployed in his preferred left-back position where he was tasked with stifling Ukraine dangerman Andriy Yarmolenko, a task he dovetailed superbly with his attacking duties.
- Serhiy Sydorchuk replaced Taras Stepanenko in Ukraine’s only change from the victory over North Macedonia.
- Marco Arnautovic and Florian Grillitsch returned as Austria made two changes to the side beaten by the Netherlands.
Alaba delivered a succession of crosses and set-pieces into the Ukrainian box before the Austrian pressure finally told. Four minutes after being given the all-clear following a clash of heads with centre-back Illya Zabarnyi, Baumgartner peeled into space in the area to turn Alaba’s corner into the Ukrainian net as Austria’s industrious start was rewarded.
Baumgartner would later succumb to his earlier injuries shortly after the half-hour mark, but his withdrawal did little to derail Austria’s dominant performance, with Konrad Laimer drawing goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan into a save soon after.
Austria should have doubled their lead before the break but Marko Arnautovic, who returned to the starting line-up following his one-game suspension for insulting a North Macedonian player, shanked a shot woefully wide after substitute Alessandro Schopf’s square pass.
After the break, Xaver Schlager saw one strike saved by Bushchan and put another wide, before Daniel Bachmann was called upon to keep the ball out when it came off Laimer’s head.
Ukraine went close again with two minutes of normal time remaining, with Roman Yaremchuk flashing a shot across the face of goal as Shevchenko’s side failed to rescue a draw that would have seen them retain second place.
Austria: History makers – Match stats
- Austria have progressed past the Group Stages of the European Championships for the first time ever, while they have made it out of the initial Group Stages of a major tournament for the first time since the 1982 World Cup.
- Ukraine have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their nine games at European Championships, the most matches played in the competition by a team without a single shut-out, while only Romania have conceded in more consecutive European Championship games, via a run of 10 ending on June 24th 2000.
- Austria mustered 18 shots against Ukraine, only managing more in a European Championship game twice before (23 v Iceland in 2016 and 20 v Croatia in 2008). It was the joint-most Ukraine have ever conceded in a European Championship game (also 18 v Germany in 2016).
- At 21 years and 324 days, Christoph Baumgartner became the youngest player ever to score for Austria at the European Championships and the third youngest to score for the country at a major tournament (EURO and World Cup), after Josef Bican at 1934 World Cup (20y 244d) and Walter Schachner at World Cup 1978 (21y 122d).
Man of the Match – David Alaba
David Alaba registered his third assist overall (in his six appearances) for Austria at European Championships, two more than any other Austrian, while his haul of four chances created in the game is the second-most ever recorded by an Austrian in a European Championship fixture (after Martin Harnik’s five v Croatia in 2008).
Austria face Group A winners Italy in the round-of-16 at Euro 2020 at Wembley Stadium on Saturday at 8pm.