Team profile : Austria look to summon up spirit of 1978
Euro Championship 2008 co-hosts Austria will need to draw on the inspiration of the side of the 1978 World Cup finals if they can even dream of making the last eight.
Given their current FIFA ranking of 101st in the world, Austria would seem more suited for simply aiming not to finish bottom of Group B. Austria will face Germany, Poland and Croatia, opening their campaign in Vienna against the Croats on June 8.
It says a lot about the recent history of the national side that they hark back to 1978, and a remarkable 3-2 victory over then reigning champions West Germany in Cordoba, as their greatest ever result — hardly surprising as the 1990 team managed to lose 1-0 to minnows Faroe Islands and their most recent taste of finals competition was a first round exit at the 1998 World Cup finals.
At least one of the heroes of 1978 will be present in the form of Josef Hickersberger, but at 60 his best years as a player are behind him and he will take his place on the coach’s bench.
Hickersberger has also managed to fall out with their two sole players who grace the English Premier League, Paul Scharner (Wigan) and Emmanuel Pogatetz (Middlesbrough), hardly glamorous clubs but when there is a serious dearth of talent at your disposal then you thank God for small mercies.
Both players labelled the coach’s tactics as being from the ’80’s and while Pogatetz has been readmitted to the squad there will be no place for Scharner. Certainly Hickersberger’s results have not yielded much optimism for the tournament and they showed their fragility as a side when they led The Netherlands 3-0 in a friendly in late March only to lose 4-3.