Vienna, June 17: Germany captain Michael Ballack got his first goal of the 2008 European Championship to lift his country into the quarterfinals for the first time since winning its record third title in 1996.
The Chelsea midfielder's 49th-minute free kick secured a 1- 0 victory against tournament co-host Austria last night at Vienna's Ernst Happel stadium, and the runner-up spot in Group B. Croatia, already assured of top spot, beat Poland 1-0. Pre-tournament favorite Germany had needed to avoid defeat to advance after losing 2-1 to Croatia in its second group game. The Germans, who failed to progress from the group stage in 2000 and 2004, will face Portugal in the last eight in two days.
"We have less time to recover and Portugal were able to rest some of their players (against Switzerland), so perhaps they have us at a disadvantage in terms of physical fitness,'' Germany assistant coach Hansi Flick said in comments on the Euro 2008 Web site. But I think our attitude will make up for that.''
Croatia is in the quarterfinals for the first time since its tournament debut 12 years ago and will face Turkey on June 20. Spain and the Netherlands have also advanced.