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We´ll be underdogs against Portugal, says Ballack

SoccerNews in Bundesliga, European Championships 17 Jun 2008

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Match-winner Michael Ballack admitted Germany would be underdogs against Portugal in the Euro 2008 quarter-finals after his goal defeated Austria 1-0 to earn his team second place in Group B.

Germany will play the talented Group A winners next after Croatia won Group B with a perfect record.

Ballack and his team-mates were far from impressive against the energetic co-hosts but it was the Chelsea midfielder's sensational free-kick four minutes into the second period that settled the affair.

“Obviously we're happy to have made it to the quarter-finals, particularly after the difficult match we had against Croatia (they lost 2-1),” said Ballack.

“We had everything to lose and we were certainly favourites to win (against Austria).

“You could tell that we were not as agile as we should have been because we tensed up, yet our desire to win proved decisive.”

Looking ahead to facing Portugal and possibly team-mates such as Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira, Ballack admitted his team would be the underdogs.

“I'm looking forward to meeting Portugal. We played them in the World Cup in the third-place match so we're looking forward to play them again,” he added.

“I know several Portugal players, not just those that I play with.

“All their players are very good individually and they play well as a team as well.

“They're very good in attack and not too focused on defence. They have great football players, not least (Cristiano) Ronaldo, who had a great season in England and it will be a very difficult task.

“Both teams want to go far in this competition and Portugal are probably favourites, we've maybe slipped to a different role and who knows, maybe that will favour us.”

Although Monday's match was entertaining it will most be remembered for a bizarre touchline bust up between the two coaches – Austria's Josef Hickersberger and Germany's Joachim Loew – and the fourth official that ended with the coaches sent off by referee Manuel Gonzalez.

Loew complained that the fourth official had been impeding the coaches from doing their job.

“I told the fourth official that Josef Hickersberger and I just wanted to do our work in peace in the technical area and that's why we were both sent to the stands,” he said.

Austria team manager Andreas Herzog, a former player with Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen, was incredulous after the match.

“I've never seen anything like that before with both coaches sent to the stands,” he said.

“It seems referees want to hog all the attention. It was a strange match, the first half was normal but it was starnge in the second period because both coaches were gone and that disrupted things.

“The referees just want to hog the limelight, they should just get on with their jobs.”

Hickersberger preferred to focus on his team's performance and he praised Ballack's moment of genuis.

“We came here to try to make it to the last eight but we didn't manage that,” he said.

“We lost to a sensational free-kick from Michael Ballack. For the most part we played well in this tournament.”

Midfielder Martin Harnik claimed the team had actually done better than expected.

“We've surpassed all hopes and we played well,” he said. “On the whole it was an even match and with a little bit of luck we could have scored.”

Austria had their chances but striker Erwin Hoffer was the chief culprit, miscontrolling a pass when clean through in the first half and failing to release Umit Korkmaz in the second when Austria had a two-on-one.

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