Saturday, June 15, 2013

Austria started as expected: they scored first against Spain. Spain equalized in the 21st minute. The first half ended 1-1 and that was expected to be the final result: Austria looked more aggressive, but experienced Spain was tough to beat. Spain neutralized the Austrian rush already, the second half was to maintain the parity – so it looked like. But it was not – Austria was slightly better in the second half, Spain struggled not to win, but just to preserve the tie. Austria deserved to win, but it was not easy to score. Yet, it happened:
Hans Krankl, cool and precise, scored in the 79th minute. Spain had no answer to that, there was no enough time too. Austria was now completely in control and won the match 2-1.

The second match – against Sweden – was similar to the first. Austria concentrated on the battle for the midfield, trying to win the ball there and organize attacks. Opportunities were missed, but Austria was slightly better and eventually scored.
Hans Krankl was the hero again: he was fouled in the penalty area and converted the penalty. 1-0, three minutes before the end of the first half. No goals were scored in the second and Austria qualified for the next round. It was almost unnoticed advancement: most observers were paying attention to Brazil and her problems.

Austria had nothing to play for – their last group match was mere protocol. Yet, Austria played seriously against Brazil. The regulars were on the field and nobody tried to save energy for the second round. Austria was dangerous and far from giving up.
Spectacular flight of Leao, desperately trying to keep the ball out of his net. Brazil were lucky – Austria failed to score. In the 40th minute Roberto Dinamite scored and the fragile lead was preserved in the second half. Ausria lost 0-1, but played equal match, if not better than Brazil.

Curiously, Austria still stayed under the radar: it was recognized the Austrians were the most exciting team in Group 3, but nothing more than that. Their advancement was not a big surprise: the team was not an outsider and had its chances in the tough group, where luck more than skill mattered. One thing still kept Austria down – low scoring. Sweden scored a single goal. Spain and Brazil – two goals each. Austria – a 'record' three. Strong defenses? Great goalkeepers? Weak strikers? Teams too equal to be able to overcome each other? Or real favourites underperforming? Certainly Brazil was playing bellow expectations. Spain? A disappointment. Sweden – just a bit weaker than the rest. Austria, then, was may be a bit more lucky than the rest. A decent team, observers said and turned to 'real news' and concerns. To Brazil.

1. Austria 2 0 1 3-2 4

2. Brazil 1 2 0 2-1 4

3. Spain 1 1 1 2-2 3

4. Sweden 0 1 2 1-3 1