THE HOME GROUND IS NOT ENOUGH
The fact that their results in the last few years aren’t the best and that this is their debut on European championships, automatically puts Austria with the outsiders of the tournaments. But, under the Alps are relying in the advantage of the home ground and already at the beginning they will try to surprise against Croatia. In the preparatory friendly matches they manage to win Ivory Coast, while the Germans overcame them with 3:0. The worrying (for Croatian fans) was Austrian game and 3:0 lead in the first 30 minutes against the Netherlands, but the reversal came off and the guests won the match with 3:4.
Of course, Austrians will need that game which they showed against Dutchman in the first half to enter the quarter-finals. Hickersberger was experimenting a lot in the preparatory matches, he changed the names and tactics, but at the end it was obvious that the accent in his team is on defence. The standard 4-4-2 was often transformed in 4-5-1, as our next opponents cannot praise themselves with a great effectiveness in the attack. For the place on the goal are fighting Alexander Manninger, who is standard in Siena, and Jurgen Macho, the goalkeeper of AEK Athens, but both of them are unreliable, what showed the match against the Netherlands. The defence looks like the best composed part, there are experienced Stranzl and returner Pogatetz and also talented Fuchs and Prodl, to which the coach shows a lot trust. In the preparatory games the defence was somehow the most convincing, but without scoring goals, there’s no result. And that is the biggest Hickersberger worry. Except some flashes from Ivanschitz, there’s no any player in the midfield who can praise himself with his shot, play one-on-one or precise passing. Enough says the fact that currently the best goalscorer is defensive midfielder Aufhauser with 10 goals, the discovery of our Otto BariÄ‡. From the strikers is highlighted Roland Linz, who is still more efficacious in his Braga than in the national team. Everything else is coming to unconfirmed talents and that’s why they’ll probably run out against Croatia with only one striker.
THE KEY PLAYER: Emanuel Pogatetz
The experience in the defence is the postulate for a good result in every team, and Austria rely on Emanuel Pogatetz, one of the national team players who is playing in the Premiership and is equally good on the left side and in the middle. 25-year-old defender of Middlesbrough, among the club’s fans known as “Poggy” has returned to the national team after being absent for 17 months because of disagreement with the selector and playmaker Ivanschitz in September of 2006. The fact that he was chosen for the best player in his club in 2007 has returned the confidence of the public, and defence has a solid stud again.
POSSIBLE DISCOVERY: Martin Harnik
One of two Austrians in Werder nicely took advantage of the call-up for the national team last summer and scored against Czech Republic (1:1) after only six minutes on the field. Interesting, he made a debut for the team from Bremen against Dinamo Zagreb in the first leg of the third qualifying round for the Champions League. He has scored only one goal in Bundesliga so far and still has to work a lot to prove himself.
THE COACH: Josef Hickersberger
The experienced coach who was two years ago chosen for the second time as selector of Austrian national team many keep in mind as a very good player and one of the participant of the historical victory against West Germany on the World Cup in 1978. Except Austria, he was coach of the Bahrain national team, few clubs at the Arab peninsula and Sturm from Graz which he brought to Champions League. He is known for the continuous search for the talents and there are quite few new players whose he called up.
PLAYERS FOR EURO
Goalkeepers: Alex Manninger (Siena), Jurgen Macho (AEK), Christian Gratzei (Sturm Graz)
Defenders: Christian Fuchs (Mattersburg), Gyorgy Garcis (Napoli), Andreas Ibertsberger (Freiburg), Emanuel Pogatetz (Middlesbrough), Martin Stranzl (Spartak M.), Martin Hiden (Rapid Vienna), Sebastian Prodl (Werder), Franz Schiemer (Austria Vienna)
Middfielders: Rene Aufhauser (Salzburg), Andreas Ivanschitz (Panathinaikos), Christoph Leitgeb (Salzburg), Thomas Prager (Heerenveen), Joachim Standfest (Austria Vienna), Veli Kavlak (Rapid Vienna), Jurgen Samel (Sturm Graz), Johannes Ertl (Austria Vienna)
Strikers: Martin Harnik (Werder), Roland Linz (Braga), Mario Haas (Sturm Graz), Roman Kienast (Ham-Kam)