NETHERLANDS 2-3 AUSTRIA: Ralf Rangnick’s brilliant Austria edge the Netherlands in a Euro 2024 classic that has set the Oranje on a collision course with England in the round of 16

As the messy permutations for the round of 16 contorted and changed through this wild match, one thought crystalised in the madness: Austria are a side England should not wish to meet in a hurry.

If there was a second instinct, it was to wonder once again how the manager of carthorses at Manchester United has made such compelling dark horses of his side at these championships. Good for Ralf Rangnick, good for Austria, bad for anyone who takes them lightly.

Arriving here, there was no guarantee they would progress from a group containing France and the Netherlands. 

To top it? Well, that really is impressive and their elevation to a different sector of the draw ought to be a source of relief for England.

This was a match where we saw a few Austrian vulnerabilities, but it was also a tie where they showcased so much more. 

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Marcel Sabitzer was the match-winner in a pulsating clash in Berlin

Sabitzer managed to squeeze his shot in from a tight angle to give Austria their third lead of the afternoon

Sabitzer managed to squeeze his shot in from a tight angle to give Austria their third lead of the afternoon

Netherlands will progress to the knockout stages as one of the best third-place teams

Netherlands will progress to the knockout stages as one of the best third-place teams

They pressed the orange into squash, they attacked with speed, but more than that, they had the courage to respond quickly, after twice having leads cancelled out. 

Indeed, for all the twists that saw the Dutch fight back from 1-0 and 2-1 before the gut punch from Marcel Sabitzer, Ronald Koeman’s side were only level for 22 minutes across the game and never comfortable for a second.

His day was something of a nightmare, starting with his response to a fairly blunt performance in the draw with France.

He had elected to make three changes, with Lutsharel Geertruida, Joey Veerman and Malen brought in and Xavi Simons among those dropped. 

To give some measure of how those alterations worked out, Veerman was hooked for Simons after 35 minutes and Malen had the first half from hell.

There was a degree of misfortune about his own goal in the sixth minute, as it came from a lunging interception to prevent Alexander Prass’s low cross finding the run of Marco Arnautovic behind him. 

Those deflections rely less on judgement than luck, so Koeman’s touchline anger was centred more on the freedom given to Prass on the left flank, having already seen him cause havoc there a moment earlier.

Donyell Malen (right) tried to get back and help his defence but ended up putting the ball past his own keeper

Donyell Malen (right) tried to get back and help his defence but ended up putting the ball past his own keeper

The Borussia Dortmund winger put through his own net to hand Austria an early lead against the Netherlands

The Borussia Dortmund winger put through his own net to hand Austria an early lead against the Netherlands

Liverpool forward Cody Gakpo kept up his fine form at the tournament with an effort that brought the Netherlands back on level terms

Liverpool forward Cody Gakpo kept up his fine form at the tournament with an effort that brought the Netherlands back on level terms

Netherlands – Austria: MATCH FACTS 

Netherlands (4-2-3-1): Verbruggen 6; Geertruida 6.5, De Vrij 6, Van Dijk 6.5, Ake 5 (Van de Ven, 65, 6); Reijnders 6.5 (Wijnaldum 65, 6.5), Schouten 6, Veerman 5 (Simons 34, 7); Malen 4 (Weghorst 72, 6), Depay 7, Gakpo 7.

Subs: De Ligt, Frimpong, Bijlow, Blind, Brobbey, Maatsen, Zirkzee, Dumfries, Flekken, Bergwijn, Gravenberch.

Manager: Ronald Koeman 

Austria (4-2-3-1 ): Pentz 6; Posch 7, Wober 7, Lienhart 5.5 (Baumgartner 62, 6), Prass 7; Seiwald 6, Grillitsch 6.5 (Querfeld 64, 6.5); Wimmer 6 (Laimer 62, 6.5), Sabitzer 7.5, Schmid 7 (Weimann 90); Arnautovic 6.5 (Gregoritsch 78).

Subs: Lindner, Trauner, Danso, Hedl, Mwene, Kainz, Laimer, Daniliuc, Seidl, Entrup, Grull.

Manager: Ralf Rangnick

Referee: Ivan Kruzliak (Slovakia) 6 

As for Marlen, greater blame would be attached to the chance he subsequently wasted. The Netherlands didn’t get many, because these Austrians are fabulously well organised off the ball, but when one did go their way, via a neat ball between the centre-halves from Depay, it only needed a half-decent finish.

One on one with Patrick Pentz and shooting on the turn, Malen scuffed wide. Across the half, Pentz didn’t need to make a single save and his team-mates were having a party. To illustrate, they had a sequence of passes in excess of 30 passes and a thumbs up from Rangnick.

Koeman? He was less happy. Before the half was done, he had changed his personnel and dumped his system for a 4-2-3-1.

Combined with what we can assume was a forthright chat at the break, there was an impact immediately upon the restart. Geertruida set a platform by winning possession from Arnautovic deep in the Dutch half, before Simons carried forward into a three-on-two attack and played left to Gakpo. 

With one touch he bought space a little easily from Philipp Lienhart and with another whipped around Pentz.

Only 12 minutes passed before Austria were back in front. The goal was derived from the delicacy of the ball from Patrick Wimmer that broke the line and then Florian Grillitsch’s cross from the byline was thundered in off Schmidd’s forehead.

Romano Schmid headed home from close range to restore his side's lead against the Netherlands

Romano Schmid headed home from close range to restore his side’s lead against the Netherlands

Memphis Depay clawed his side back into the tie with a wonderfully-taken effort in the 75th minute

Memphis Depay clawed his side back into the tie with a wonderfully-taken effort in the 75th minute

The Atletico Madrid striker's celebrations were caught short before VAR reinstated the strike

The Atletico Madrid striker’s celebrations were caught short before VAR reinstated the strike

Austria qualified top of Group D thanks to their win and France's draw with Poland in the other tie

Austria qualified top of Group D thanks to their win and France’s draw with Poland in the other tie

Once again, the Netherlands found their way back, when Depay chested and volleyed for 2-2, which was initially disallowed by the referee for offside, only for the VAR to make a correct intervention. 

The place erupted though that was a short-lived relief, with Sabitzer creeping behind Jerdy Schouten and receiving a blade sharp ball from Christoph Baumgartner. He drilled the winner into the tiny space between Bart Verbruggen and his near post.

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