Northern Ireland were eliminated from Euro 2022 after a 2-0 loss to Austria in Southampton and an 8-0 thrashing by England against Norway.
Katharina Schiechtl headed in Sarah Puntigam’s deflected free kick to give Austria the lead in the 19th minute of their second Group A match.
Northern Ireland, competing in their first major event, increased in confidence as the game continued but struggled to penetrate a resolute Austrian defense until Katharina Naschenweng’s late second goal sealed the victory.
The loss put Kenny Shiels’s squad in a dangerous position before to the late kickoff between England and Norway, and the Lionesses’ record triumph ensured Northern Ireland’s early withdrawal from the tournament.
Friday at St. Mary’s, Northern Ireland will play the hosts in their final Euro 2022 match.
Austria’s victory maintains Irene Fuhrmann’s squad in the quest for a quarterfinal berth before their final match against Norway.
Austria was predicted to be Northern Ireland’s best opportunity to earn a result in their Euros debut out of their three Group A opponents.
Austria scored an injury-time equalizer in a 2-2 draw in World Cup qualification in Belfast in October, but Fuhrmann’s team won the rematch 3-1 in April.
Julia Hickelsberger-Fuller headed the ball across the face of goal, but Nicole Billa, who was unsighted, was unable to react and redirect the ball into the net as temperatures reached as high as 27 degrees Celsius in front of 9,268 spectators.
Hickelsberger-Fuller, the best player in the first half, sent the ball to her Hoffenheim teammate Billa after some outstanding play. However, just as it appeared like the goal would be scored, Sarah McFadden ran across to thwart the forward, and the ball hit the side netting.
Without the injured Simone Magill, captain Marissa Callaghan was tasked with playing the ‘false nine’ position, and while Northern Ireland struggled without their central outlet, the pace of Lauren Wade caused problems for the Austrians, and her long-range attempt was saved by Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger.
However, Austria maintained pressure, and the breakthrough came when Demi Vance fouled Hickelsberger-Fuller on the edge of the penalty area. In the 19th minute, Julie Nelson at the end of the two-player wall deflected Puntigam’s low free kick, which allowed Schiechtl to beat her defender and score.
Callaghan took Vance’s pass, dribbled into the penalty area, and was thwarted by Austria defender Carina Wenninger to create Kenny Shiels’ squad’s first significant opportunity against a team 26 places higher in the world rankings.
This marked the beginning of a good stretch for Northern Ireland, although a string of set pieces failed to result in clear scoring opportunities.
Following Rebecca McKenna’s backpass, Northern Ireland were caught playing from the back as goalkeeper Jackie Burns gave the ball away to Barbara Dunst.
However, Burns sprinted back and made a fantastic recovery save by tipping the winger’s shot onto the top of the crossbar, and the halftime score accurately reflected the game despite Northern Ireland’s rising confidence.
It was almost obvious that play would slow down in the second half due to the heat temperatures, and Austria began the period swiftly when Dunst cut inside but Nelson blocked her shot.
After Chloe McCarron did well to win the ball on the edge of the penalty box, Northern Ireland quickly gained confidence, as evidenced by Wade’s shot that sailed over the crossbar after Chloe McCarron did well to win the ball.
But Austria, who reached the semifinals in 2017, utilized their big-game experience to regain the initiative, as Burns tipped Dunst’s well-placed shot from the edge of the box over the crossbar.
As the game began to open up, Rebecca Holloway, one of four new players from Thursday’s opening against Norway, made a courageous block on Laura Feiersinger.
Rachel Furness headed over shortly after McGuinness’ cross was effectively blocked by red shirts, and Austria began to establish control and dominate possession as their superior fitness took effect.
With four minutes remained, Nascheweng secured the victory with a ferocious shot that sailed into the back of the net after he had previously missed Burns’s goal with an attempt.
When she denied Puntigam in added time, Holloway preventeds Austria from scoring a third goal.
At the final whistle, the white jerseys of Northern Ireland fell to their knees, while the Austrians joined their supporters in a celebratory song and dance as they maintained their hopes of advancing.
Northern Ireland’s players still embraced their relatives and friends before leaving the St. Mary’s turf, but the ultimate underdog’s trip will conclude on Friday when they face England in their last group stage match.