Austria tops Group D ahead of France and Netherlands after rollercoaster finish

Marcel Sabitzer scored a late goal as Austria advanced to the last 16 of the European Championship as winners of Group D after an eventful 3-2 victory over the Netherlands in Berlin on Tuesday.

Ralf Rangnick’s team had been considered the dark horse before the tournament, and they lived up to that expectation, as victories over Poland and the Netherlands were enough to lift them to the top of the group.

The French, who beat Austria in their first match, could have topped the table with a victory over Poland in Dortmund, but were surprisingly limited to a 1-1 draw against the already eliminated Poles. Kylian Mbappé scored a penalty on his return to the team from a broken nose, but Robert Lewandowski also scored from the penalty spot to condemn the French to second place.

The reward for Austria is a tie in the round of 16 with the runners-up of Group F: Turkey, the Czech Republic or Georgia.

France will face the runners-up in a still very open Group E, with Romania, Belgium, Slovakia and Ukraine still in the fight for qualification before Wednesday night’s final match. The Dutch, who finished with four points, will go through as the best third-placed team and will face the group winner.

Sabitzer was delighted to have scored what was a historic goal for his team, saying: “If you beat Holland and win the group, then you can’t be that bad. When you win like that, you win the group, you score the winning goal.” . objective, there is nothing better than that.

The Austrians needed a point in Berlin to secure progress and got off to the perfect start when Dutch striker Donyell Malen scored an own goal in the sixth minute.

Xavi Simons, who had replaced the woeful Joey Veerman after 30 minutes, set up Cody Gapko to equalize two minutes after the break, but Romano Schmid quickly put Austria back in front.

Memphis Depay equalized with a brilliant finish in the 75th minute, but Sabitzer restored Austria’s lead two minutes later with a rasping shot from a tight angle.

Dutch captain Virgil van Dijk was scathing in his assessment of his performance.

“We started badly. We were too weak in the duels, I have no explanation for it at the moment,” said the Liverpool defender.

“We talked about it at half-time, (playing like this) is not possible, we know it, it has to be much better.

“We are all responsible for this, there is not one or two to blame… if we want to achieve something in this tournament, something has to change.”

Meanwhile, in Dortmund, things seemed to be going to plan for Didier Deschamps and his French team when Mbappé scored from a penalty on his return after breaking his nose against Austria in his first match.

Mbappé took off his protective mask to celebrate in front of fans after converting his 56th-minute penalty, his first goal in a European Championship, awarded after Ousmane Dembélé was brought down in the area.

Playing for the first time with his mask, Mbappé avoided physical challenges and did not compete for the ball in the air. The French are yet to score from open play after a deeply disappointing effort in the group stage.

Lewandowski ensured a negative finish by scoring from the penalty spot on the second attempt. His first attempt was stopped by French goalkeeper Mike Maignan, who was penalized for going off his line. The Polish striker found the bottom corner on his second attempt.

“We have achieved our first goal,” said Les Bleus coach Deschamps. “Even if we don’t get the position we were looking for because we are second. A new competition is about to begin.”

Updated: June 25, 2024 at 7:15 p.m.

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