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Austria Hopes

More in hope than expectation the co hosts prepare for a must win game with Germany. In truth they will be pleased to of made it thus far and still be in with a shout of making the knock out stages. Not many though will give them a hope of pulling off a victory against the early favourites Germany, despite their lackluster effort against Croatia. Michael Ballack will lead his team out knowing a draw will send them through, Austria need all 3 points, and hope Poland don’t better them in the other final group game.

The final set of games all kick off at the same time, to avoid any advantage being gained. Austria will have to play the game of their life against a wounded giant in Germany. Doubts over Lahm and Podolski have been cleared, they are expected to start, although the petulance of Bastian Schweinsteiger has cost him his place, and possibly in any further games, the manager openly critical of his actions.

If Austria do make it to the next stages Umit Korkmaz, Jurgen Saumel and Emanuel Pogatetz are one yellow card shy of a suspension, and will hope to avoid a second thus ruling them out of the quarter finals. Austria themselves are already missing Seb Proedl through suspension, former Leeds defender Martin Hiden is tipped to replace him and pick up his 50th cap. Roland Linz has been replaced in both games by Roman Kienast and must sweat it out to see if he is given a 3 chance to shine, against the strongest team in the group. In fact, Kienasts uncle, Reinard scored twice the last time Austria beat Germany, a friendly in ’86, 4-1, so will be hoping for the chance to emulate his relative.

Josef Hickersberger has earmarked Michael Ballack as a potent threat and may opt to man mark him with Aufhauser, however, with the German side littered with dangermen, stopping the skipper may only be part of the task in hand. To sum up what could be a nail biting finale, the older Austrian fans amoungst us will be hoping for a repeat of the final group stage in the 1978 World Cup, Germany requiring just a point, were beaten and eliminated by Austria! Manager Josef Hickersberger was a member of the winning Austrian squad.

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