Netherlands 2 Austria 3: Sabitzer's sublime winner and Koeman outfoxed by Rangnick


Austria are through to the knockout stage as group winners after a sensational and topsy-turvy 3-2 victory over Netherlands.

Ralf Rangnick’s side took the lead twice but were pegged back on both occasions before Marcel Sabitzer’s 80th-minute winner sealed the three points and condemned Ronald Koeman’s side to a third-place finish.

The result caps a disappointing group stage for Netherlands and they will have to wait and see which side of the draw they end up on.

Tim Spiers and Nancy Froston analyse the key talking points from a pulsating game.


Austria look the real deal

If Austria weren’t dark horses for Euro 2024 before this game — and their dazzling 3-1 victory over Poland, coupled with some impressive results in the last two years under Rangnick, certainly suggested it — then they really are now.

Victory over the Dutch not only sends a statement to the rest of the tournament that they are capable of beating one of the top nations (adding to wins over Germany and Italy in friendlies) but it also takes them to Leipzig in the last 16 where they’ll play the runner-ups in Group F, which will be one of Turkey, Czech Republic or Georgia.

As Rangnick said before the tournament started, should they squeeze through they will fancy their chances of beating anybody. Well, they will certainly fancy beating any of those three and then…well, who knows how far they can go.

With a brand of attacking football and an intensity that never seems to let up, no one will want to play them.

There is a tangible belief among their success-starved fanbase that something special is happening under Rangnick.

Tim Spiers


Netherlands left at the mercy of the draw

We have seen some shocks in Dutch football of late — the decline of Ajax domestically chief among them — but this result is right up there. Austria were as good as the Netherlands were poor, with Rangnick’s side quick out of the blocks with few answers from Koeman’s side.

He rolled the dice with a first-half substitution and got his team to respond well after half-time but there was not enough of a reaction from the Netherlands after Austria’s second goal.

Wout Weghorst continued the theme of this being a summer for the return of big strikers with involvement in Depay’s goal to make things level at 2-2 but the Netherlands were too easily unpicked at the back and looked flat.


Koeman suffering against Austria (Peter Lous/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

They will be at the mercy of the draw now after finishing third in an entertaining group, though they are definitely through. Who would have predicted Austria to finish top?

Nancy Froston


Sublime Sabitzer leaves his mark

There aren’t many household names in this Austrian squad. Marko Arnautovic would be one and Christoph Baumgartner might about to be one, but otherwise Austria’s talisman is surely Sabitzer.

Perhaps surprisingly this was the 30-year-old’s 10th appearance at a major tournament (he’s been around a while but Austria rarely make it out of group stages) and he looks to be in his prime.

 

Rangnick moved him inside to a central floating role behind Arnautovic after sticking him on the left against Poland and he thrived.

Sabitzer dovetailed seamlessly with Patrick Wimmer and Romano Schmid — the movement of the attacking players, combined with runners from deep, was gorgeous to watch; fluidity, technical ability, spatial awareness, flicks, one-twos, it was divine at times, never more so than for the winning goal when Baumgartner, on as a substitute, speared a pass through two helpless Dutch defenders and the composed Sabitzer, in on goal but from a tight angle, took a beat to pick his spot and lashed above Bart Verbruggen.

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Sabitzer scores the winning goal (Marcel ter Bals/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Manchester United fans won’t recognise this version of Sabitzer (or Rangnick) but he is at the heart of everything good they do.

Tim Spiers


Depay has Van Persie in his sights

In a fairly poor performance from the Netherlands, Memphis Depay was the standout man, and not just for his flashy headband. The striker is now just four goals off the all-time scoring record for his country with 46 goals and is closing in on Robin van Persie’s mark of 50.

Depay’s deftness of touch and hold-up play was a rare positive in an otherwise erratic performance from Koeman’s side.

A well-taken goal after a knock-down from Weghorst added a moment of jeopardy to the game as it was subject to a VAR check for a handball, but Depay had controlled it well on his torso. A thumping volley rifled past Patrick Pentz was no less than he deserved for a hard-working display.

Nancy Froston


Rangnick’s changes come good

Rangnick surprisingly made four changes from the side that had beaten Poland so convincingly. One was enforced in defence, with Gernot Trauner missing out injured, but in came Alexander Prass at left-back and, in what looked like a risky move given their qualification wasn’t assured, RB Leipzig’s Baumgartner and Konrad Laimer of Bayern Munich were both rested.

Not that there was an iota of difference to Austria’s first-half performance. In fact, this was their best first half of the tournament — in classic Rangnick style, they came racing out the traps and took an early lead when Prass registered his second assist in two games, Donyell Malen turning in his cross for an own goal.

Yes, the Dutch were slightly weaker too, but this is Austria, they aren’t meant to have great strength in depth. David Alaba and midfield pivot Xaver Schlager aren’t at the Euros due to injury either, but this unfamiliar side, with Patrick Wimmer impressing on the left and Marcel Sabitzer scheming in the hole, played with all the fluency and pizazz that Austria are becoming renowned for under Rangnick.

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Rangnick on the touchline against Netherlands (Alex Pantling – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

It was a testament to the work Rangnick has done with the squad that he could make so many changes and play so well that Ronald Koeman was forced into a first-half rethink.

Tim Spiers


What next for the Netherlands?

The Dutch have come third but are guaranteed a place in the knockout stage. They will have to wait until the conclusion of the group stage to find out who they will be playing in the last 16.

What next for Austria?

Austria have won the group and will play second place in Group F (one of Turkey, Czech Republic and Georgia) in the last 16. That match is on July 2 at 8pm UK time (3pm ET) in Leipzig.


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(Top photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)





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