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EURO 2008

Germany works for 1-0 win over Austria

June 17, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Germany made heavy going of it Monday but eventually ground out a 1-0 victory over game but outclassed Austria in Vienna and thus became the sixth team to advance to the quarterfinals of soccer's European Championship.

The victory, on a free kick goal by Michael Ballack, secured the Germans second place in Group B and set up an intriguing match in Basel, Switzerland, on Thursday against Group A winner Portugal -- a clash of two teams with radically different styles.

The same teams met in the third-place game at the 2006 World Cup, with Germany prevailing, 3-1.

Croatia, which already was assured of advancing, won its third game in a row Monday, beating Poland, 1-0, in Klagenfurt. Coach Slaven Bilic's team will play Turkey in its quarterfinal game in Vienna on Friday.

The Croatian goal had a fairy-tale element about it. It was scored by Ivan Klasnic, the first kidney transplant patient to take part in a major soccer tournament. Klasnic, 28, returned to the playing field only in September. He had suffered kidney failure in January 2007 and underwent two transplants, the first being unsuccessful and almost costing him his career.

"I'm happy that I'm here at all," Klasnic said.

The losses eliminated the Austrians and Poles from the 16-nation tournament, making them the fourth and fifth teams to bow out.

Germany was strongly favored to win Monday but still has not shaken off the sluggishness that first appeared in its loss to Croatia. The team looked marginally better but lacked both a cutting edge and any real imagination. It was workmanlike, nothing more.

Ballack's goal was well taken, however, a powerful drive into the top right corner of Austrian goalkeeper Juergen Macho's net from about 30 yards. The free kick came after a foul by Andreas Ivanschitz on Philipp Lahm.

Afterward, Ballack admitted that the German players had not sparkled.

"It's our own fault we ended up in this situation due to the Croatia match," he said. "It meant we couldn't play relaxed."

The tension surrounding the game was made clear just before halftime when both coaches, Germany's Joachim "Jogi" Loew and Austria's Josef Hickersberger, were banished to the stands by Spanish referee Manuel Mejuto for arguing with each other and the fourth official on the sideline.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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