And when they were not dithering, they were guilty of giving the ball away.
Fortunately, for the three times European champions Austria have been unable to make the most of the gifts that have come their way at the tournament and against their neighbours little seemed to have changed.
For all their attacking endeavour, largely orchestrated by Umit Korkmaz and Erwin Hoffer, Austria only once managed to pierce a flimsy German defence when Hoffer found himself clear in the area only to let himself down with a poor first touch.
Interview: Michael Ballack
The Germans were not much better but they did look more threatening and should have taken the lead early on with one of the easiest chances any player will get at this championship.
The guilty party was Gomez, later substituted, who mis-kicked from two yards after great work from Miroslav Klose down the right.
Their other chance was created and despatched by the more potent Lukas Podolski who stung the hands of Jurgen Macho from 25 yards.
While most of the players kept their cool during the tense occasion, the same could not be said for coaches Low and Josef Hickersberger who were sent to the stands shortly before the break by referee Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez for what appeared to be an ongoing spat with the fourth official.
Whatever effect that had on the German team appeared to be positive as they came out after the interval with a roaring fire in their bellies.
That new found venom was symbolised by Ballack's strike which eased the worries for his side.
The marauding Lahm won a free-kick when he was fouled after a tremendous run towards the penalty area.
Chelsea midfielder Ballack stepped up to the mark and spanked his effort into Macho's top-left corner.
From that point on Germany looked odds-on to seal their ninth win in 12 competitive matches against Austria.
Low joined Germany chancellor Angela Merkel in the stands
Austria heads dropped knowing that they needed to beat the Germans to stand any chance of not joining co-hosts Switzerland as one of the eliminated teams.
Balls were now hit in hope into the German area and when Ivanschitz did find himself free he was denied by a great tackle from Lahm.
Torsten Frings and Klose went close to adding a second late on with well-struck efforts, but in the end the thunderbolt from talisman Ballack proved enough for Germany, who have reached the tournament knockout stages for the first time since they won the title in 1996.
Germany have qualified for the quarter-finals after failing to progress from the group stage at both Euro 2000 and Euro 2004. In the last eight, they will play Portugal on Thursday, 19 June, in Basel. Their last meeting at the European Championship was on 8 July 2000 when Portugal beat Germany 3-0 through a hat trick by Sergio Conceicao.
Michael Ballack scored his second European Championship goal. He made his debut goal four years ago against the Czech Republic. Ballack became only the third German player to score in more than one European Championship finals, next to Jurgen Klinsmann and Rudi Voller.
Austria became the third host nation to fail to progress from the group stage since the introduction of the knock-out stages in 1984 following Belgium (2000) and Switzerland (2008).
In 1980, Italy finished second in the group and were condemned to the third place play-off.
Austria became the first host ever at the European Championship to score only one goal. They are now the third host country to stay winless in the whole tournament after France (two matches in 1960) and Yugoslavia (two matches in 1976). Austria are now winless in their last nine matches in the Ernst Happel stadium.
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