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Germany captain Michael Ballack booked his side's place in the UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-finals with a thunderous free-kick, ending the hopes of Austria despite a valiant effort from the co-hosts in Vienna.
To overtake their opponents and claim the runners-up spot in Group B, Austria needed to beat their neighbours – something they had not achieved since defeating West Germany in 1986. The home team enjoyed long periods of possession but, as in their February friendly loss in this stadium against the same opposition, were made to pay for a lack of a cutting edge up front – Ballack settling the contest in the 49th minute with a characteristically clinical set piece.
Coach Joachim Löw, who was sent to the stands with his Austria counterpart Josef Hickersberger just before half-time, can look forward to a quarter-final against Group A winners Portugal in Basel on Thursday.
Hickersberger made three changes to the side that snatched a last-gasp draw with Poland on Thursday, surprisingly giving 21-year-old Erwin Hoffer his second senior start in place of Roland Linz up front. If that was designed to improve the co-hosts' potency, it initially backfired as Germany enjoyed the better of the early exchanges and, but for a remarkable Mario Gómez miss, the home crowd would have been silenced by the fifth minute.
Miroslav Klose was the architect of the move, tricking his way down the right and delivering a low cross that bypassed goalkeeper Jürgen Macho, only for Gómez to mistime his shot at the unguarded net, allowing György Garics to head his looping effort off the line.
Gómez then drew a regulation save from Macho with a low angled drive, before Hoffer began to provide evidence of the poaching skills that made him such a prolific scorer in his country's youth teams, narrowly failing to control an Andreas Ivanschitz cross which would have left him clear.
Austria nevertheless took heart from that opening and enjoyed their first spell of sustained pressure, Jens Lehmann diving to his right to touch behind René Aufhauser's low shot, although Macho had to do likewise to keep out a Lukas Podolski attempt from distance.
With so much at stake, it was little surprise that tensions were running high on and off the field, and following a heated exchange on the touchline Hickersberger and Löw were dismissed. It was the latter whose side seemed less affected by their coach's absence, however, and within four minutes of the restart Germany were ahead. Ivanschitz pulled down Philipp Lahm as the left-back drove forward and Ballack exploited the resulting free-kick to the full, driving an unstoppable shot high into the net from 25 metres.
Lahm and Podolski both missed the target while Macho saved from Per Mertesacker and Klose as Germany sought to increase their advantage. Nonetheless, Austria never lost heart and Hoffer flashed a shot just wide of Lehmann's goal. Germany have now won their last five games against these opponents and at the final whistle celebrated reaching the last eight for the first time since 1996 – when they went on to lift the trophy. Meanwhile, for the first time no host nation will be represented in the knockout rounds.
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