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Austria snatch top spot in Group D with 3-2 win over Dutch

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NEW DELHI: Austria's relentless and energetic performance catapulted them into the round of 16 at the European Championship in Berlin on Tuesday. Their thrilling 3-2 win over the Netherlands not only secured their progression but also earned them the top spot in Group D.

Despite conceding an early own goal, delivering a lackluster first-half display, and falling victim to a late sucker punch from Marcel Sabitzer, the Dutch also advanced as one of the four best third-placed teams.

With France being held to a 1-1 draw by Poland in Dortmund, Austria claimed the top spot in the group with six points, followed by France with five and the Netherlands with four, reported Reuters.

Austria took a surprising lead at the Olympiastadion when Donyell Malen inadvertently turned the ball into his own net just six minutes into the match.

However, Cody Gakpo equalized shortly after the break. Romano Schmid put Austria ahead again just before the hour mark in a back-and-forth second half, but Memphis Depay leveled the score in the 75th minute.

Ultimately, it was Sabitzer who sealed the victory for Ralf Rangnick's determined side, propelling them to the unexpected position of group winners. The final standings in the group fluctuated several times throughout the 90 minutes.

Austria will face the Group F runners-up, which will be determined on Wednesday, while France and the Netherlands await the identity of their last-16 opponents.

MALEN MISCUE

Malen squandered a golden opportunity in the 23rd minute, failing to convert a perfectly threaded pass that left him one-on-one with goalkeeper Patrick Pentz. Earlier, in the 14th minute, Tijjani Reijnders also missed the target after receiving a setup from Gakpo.

Frustrated by the Netherlands' loss of key midfield battles and frequent turnovers, coach Ronald Koeman substituted Joey Veerman with Xavi Simons with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.

Koeman's agitation was evident as he repeatedly leapt up from the bench in response to Austria's relentless pressing, which forced the Dutch into numerous mistakes.

Austria could have extended their lead before halftime, causing the Dutch significant problems. Verbruggen made a sharp save to deny Marcel Sabitzer's powerful shot and then got a touch to prevent Marko Arnautovic from scoring.

Presumably still feeling the effects of Koeman's halftime fury, the Dutch surged forward after the break, with Simons driving through the middle and passing to Gakpo. Given too much space by his marker Philipp Lienhart, Gakpo seized the opportunity and curled the ball into the net with finesse.

However, just as the Dutch were gaining momentum, they were stung again in the 59th minute. Florian Grillitsch's pullback from the byline set up a header for the diminutive Schmid, whose effort was already on target but was inadvertently directed into the opposite corner by Dutch defender Stefan de Vrij.

Substitute Wout Weghorst made an immediate impact after replacing Malen in the 72nd minute, with his header creating a close-range chance for Depay. Referee Ivan Kruzliak initially disallowed the goal, claiming Depay had handled the ball, but VAR overturned the decision after a two-minute review.

However, the deadlock lasted only five minutes before Sabitzer restored Austria's lead. He initiated the goal with a burst through the middle and timed his run perfectly to receive a return pass, scoring from a tight angle.
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