A DEFEAT TO AUSTRIA DECIDES A PLACE IN THE QUARTER FINAL FOR WALES
After a day off Wales were back in action. This time in their final group game against Austria, a side they know very well from numerous recent meetings.
With the temperatures creeping into the 40s the game was going to be physically and tactically testing. Wales knew the Austrians would sit deep and wait for their moments and with the scorching temperatures this was likely to be even more evident.
However, just prior to the start the heavens opened and a deluge took the edge off the heat, but with it brought its own testing conditions. Players struggled to hear each other and the game was played in a strange atmosphere as the rain pounded down.
Wales started well, having much of the ball, albeit in their own half, due to the Austrians deep defensive set up. Without the ball Wales looked solid, limiting the Austrians to one effort of note in the first 30 minutes.
Half time and the sides were locked at 0-0. A result that suited Wales, as one point assured them of top spot in the group. It was 7 minutes into the second half when Austria upped the initiative, knowing a win would see them top the group and broke through the Welsh press to earn themselves a penalty corner. With a powerful and accurate flick they took the lead.
Into the last quarter and Wales knew they needed to equalise to avoid having to play a quarter final and have direct passage to the semi finals.
Pushing hard in possession and upping the aggression high up the pitch when pressing, Wales searched for an opening, that was never to come. With 6 minutes to go Austria won a penalty corner and to compound the situation Gareth Furlong received a green card. A variation off the top from the Austrians, but the same result as before, a low powerful and accurate flick to the bottom right corner. 2-0 and game over.
When Wales regained the suspended Furlong they removed the goalkeeper and played 11 on 10 in the outfield. Although having the majority of possession in the final few minutes they couldn’t pries open a rigid and compact Austrian defence. At the final hooter Wales knew their fate. Third place and a quarter final on Wednesday. All they did not know was who.
Later Italy, the surprise package of the tournament, beat the hosts Malaysia to book a place in the semi finals. So it’s Wales v Malaysia in the quarters for a place in the final four. Wales can expect a strong and determined performance and will have to overcome a large and noisy crowd if they are to advance further in the tournament.