Austria’s Nicole Billa books quarter-final with Germany as Norway crash out

Austria rocked the Amex Stadium with a crushing upset as they defeated Norway to secure a quarter-final place and send their opponents home from the group stage for the second Euros in a row.

“I’m disappointed,” Norway’s manager, Martin Sjogren, said. “I feel pretty empty, I feel for the players and the staff. We have expectations of ourselves and for this tournament so, of course, we are disappointed.”

Nicole Billa’s first-half header proved enough to defeat Norway after a dominant performance in Brighton. Austria will now play the Group B winners, Germany, in Brentford on Thursday.

Austria started with a high tempo, winning a free-kick and nicking midfield ball. They earned the first corner of the game, which Verena Hanshaw delivered with gusto and Guro Pettersen collected via a simple catch. Manuela Zinsberger, the Austria goalkeeper, was tested next. Guro Reiten sent in a great ball but the Arsenal player plucked it from the air.

A succession of free-kicks led to another Austrian corner which pinballed around the box, eventually landing to Laura Feiersinger. Her strike rattled the woodwork after Pettersen fumbled the save.

Caroline Graham Hansen got some edge back into the Norwegian attack with a great run but she sent her subsequent attempt wide. Julie Blakstad then did a stellar job in defence as Austria looked to press once more. She stole the ball, ran around two defenders and won a free-kick.

Her masterful footwork frustrated Julia Hicklesberger-Füller whose objections to referee Kateryna Monzul earned her a yellow for dissent. The Norwegian set-piece saw the team building from deep but it led to nothing, Austria defending well to keep the pressure on their opponents.

Gasps from Austria’s fans could be heard around the Amex Stadium as Billa looked to shoot. Pettersen pushed it away and Frida Maanum made a last-ditch clearance to keep the deadlock intact. But it didn’t last long as Billa came storming through once again. Hanshaw passed to Billa whose well-timed run and header opened the scoring on 37 minutes.

Confidence drained from Norway’s players; needing a win to progress, they knew they would now have to score two to go through. Yet it was Austria who had the better start after half-time, Hicklesberger-Füller made a storming run down the right with Pettersen forced to collect the resulting cross.

Norway looked to strike back but a pass to Ada Hegerberg was cut out by Carina Wenninger. The flash of attacking press sparked some fight and soon Norway were on the front foot. After a prolonged buildup, Hegerberg had a shot but it went wide.

It looked as though Norway had finally settled into the match and the team were giving their fans more to cheer. At the other end, Pettersen once again kept her side in the game with a save and was put to work again a few moments later via a thundering Billa shot.

The goalkeeper, who was having a stellar evening, kept Billa out again soon after and her team were soon on the attack via a link-up between Hegerberg and Graham Hansen. The ball eventually landed at the feet of Reiten, whose attempt sailed over the bar.

Austria’s journey continues while Norway head to the airport. It is another disappointing Euros for for the side and while England knocked the stuffing out of their campaign with that 8-0 thumping, it was Austria who landed the killer blow.

“We need to stick together,” Sjogren added. “Have some kind of debrief. Tomorrow we will be splitting up, I hope they will go on vacation, have some days off, just to come back. We will do an evaluation of the tournament later on. But first of all we need to get together tonight and support each other.”