Ballack powers Germany on

Skipper sends three-time winners into the quarter-finals

Michael Ballack's stunning free-kick sent Germany into the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 after a 1-0 win over co-hosts Austria in Vienna.

The Germany captain struck a tight game's only goal on 49 minutes when the midfielder hammered an unstoppable free-kick into the top corner of Jurgen Macho's net.

Germany - knowing a draw would be enough to advance to the last eight - should have taken the lead after just five minutes when Mario Gomez contrived to miss in front of a gaping goal.

Austria could not be faulted for effort in search of the win they required, but Josef Hickersberger's side lacked a cutting edge where it mattered and never seriously troubled opposition keeper Jens Lehmann.

Hickersberger and his Germany counterpart Joachim Low were sent to the stands for bickering before half-time and, four minutes after the break, Ballack settled the issue.

The three-time European Championship winners will now face Portugal in the quarter-finals, while Austria will hope to unearth a new Hans Krankl by the time the next major tournament comes around.

Inexplicable miss

Germany wasted a wonderful opportunity to take an lead when Gomez produced a strong contender for miss-of-the-tournament with only five minutes on the clock.

Miroslav Klose teased the Austrians down the right before sliding the ball across the six-yard box, giving Gomez an open goal from three yards. Inexplicably however, the Stuttgart striker, who scored 28 goals last season, contrived to slice the ball in the air, giving Gyorgy Garics the opportunity to get back on the line and clear the danger.

Gomez, keen to atone for his miss, shot straight at Jurgen Macho from the left corner of the box two minutes later as Germany started much the brighter side.

Lukas Podolski's 25-yard drive forced Macho into a diving parry midway through the first period, but the hosts began to impose themselves on the game as the half wore on.

Austria's best opportunity came 10 minutes before the break when Umit Korkmaz drove the ball back from the touchline, but Christian Fuchs failed to control his header as the ball flew harmlessly over Jens Lehmann's crossbar.

Referee Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez made his presence felt five minutes before half-time, sending Hickersberger and Low to the stands after a dis**** on the touchline.

The second period was only four minutes old when Ballack smashed Germany in front.

Cynical foul

Philipp Lahm was cynically brought down 25 yards from goal by Andreas Ivanschitz and Germany captain Ballack stepped up and blasted the free-kick past the wall and into the far top corner, giving Macho absolutely no chance.

Lahm moments later embarked upon another jinking run from his left-back spot, this time pulling his 20-yard effort wide of the near post as the Germans looked to give themselves breathing space.

Austria again improved as the half progressed, but Lehmann remained untroubled in the Germany goal.

His opposite number had to be quick off his line to make a fine save at the feet of Klose before reacting quickly to make a block from the resulting corner which skimmed off the head of his own defender stationed at the near post.

Lahm made a fine last-ditch challenge to deny Ivanschitz a path to goal moments before Erwin Hoffer lashed wide from inside the German box as Lehmann continued to enjoy a quiet evening.

Macho denied Klose again, parrying the Bayern Munich striker's effort from inside the box before Torsten Frings lashed just wide from outside the box in injury-time as Germany comfortably saw out the closing stages.