While Ireland and Sweden lock horns in Dublin, Austria will be in action in Munich. With Germany expected to continue their run-away lead towards the World Cup, the Austrians are already looking to next week’s meeting with the Boys in Green in Vienna and dreaming of Brazil as Georg Sander of 90minuten.at writes.
The clock said 90 plus 2 as Bayern Munich starlet David Alaba hammered in the overtime equaliser in the Aviva Stadium on 26th of March. A 2-2 draw and Austria could start dreaming about Brazil. And yet, having gone in as fourth seeds, and despite beating Sweden 2-1, Austria’s opponent for finishing third in Group C is Ireland.
So, what about this Austrian side? It is a team ‘in-between’; a team that is looking where to stand in football. Austria were drawn as fourth seeds after Germany, Sweden and Ireland, still better than Kazakhstan and the Faroes. In fact, most football fans here would be confident of finishing third, leaving Ireland behind. But like in every other country, the fans and the media dream. They dream about Brazil, beating Germany and being better than Sweden. But Germany is one of top three sides in the world. Sweden are experienced and have Zlatan Ibrahimovic as well as a bunch of other great players, young and old. And then comes Ireland.
Ireland’s game against Austria will pretty much have something to do with our performance against Germany on Friday. Even if the Germans are missing some of their best players, they play at home and usually that means they win. Should Austria take home a draw or even a win, it will be very hard for Ireland. At home in Vienna, Austria are two or three classes better than away. And the fans are eager to experience history, the last win against Germany – Austria’s equivalent of England to Ireland – dates back to 1986. And even if Austria play great, but lose in the best Rumpelfußball’s way – meaning in an ugly or scrappy fashion – they will be better. If they come home from Munich with either a great performance or – worse for Ireland – one to three points, Trapattoni and his men will face a world- class opponent next Tuesday.
Because this is Austria. They can compete eye to eye with every country in the world, as long as they play at home and the last result was positive. But, and this is the keypoint, modern Austrian football fans know Trapattoni and the way they’ll play. Even if Austria get smashed up by their neighbours in Munich, they will still want to have a minor chance to go to Brazil. And at home, when they’re not a fourth class amateur-slapstick group, as they have been in the past, they have their minutes, where Junuzovic, Alaba and the rest can perform like the Spanish Furia Roja herself. Not giving away the ball near the penalty area, they can manage to counter-attack like the 2006 Germans or even release a shot from sniper-positions as Steven Gerrard does so often in the red shirt.
For me, our national squad is a lucky bag. I am not lying about the ability but I’ve also seen a team that really plays like Barcelona for five minutes and then, for hardly any reason, switches back to amateur skills. But the key fact is, that no one – neither the crowd and media, nor the manager and the players – will accept that anymore. Austria missed some things over the past few years, but we are coming back. When I talked to colleagues, fans or even players, they know that, coming from cup 4, finishing third would be deemed a success in these qualifiers – and the key is to beat Ireland. But, as we all know from the recent qualifiers and European club-group stages, in 90 minutes anything can happen.
The game will be as expected – Ireland defensive, Austria as the home side in attack. Ireland will look to break on the counter. Austria will miss chances and in the end it will be the question, if the luck of the Irish will be with or against them? Solid defence and stalwart players on the one side, a bit younger and good technicians on the other side, the melting pot of continental football against the islands in the northwest.
If I was asked directly about the result, I’d say it will be a 2-1, not knowing who’ll score two goals and when. Both squads follow their manager’s ideas, and they could not be more contrary. The table says that there are three teams level with 11 points, and it will become even more close. In the last four games, anything can happen. But you can bet that the one winning on the 10th of September in Vienna will have a good chance to finish second.
Georg Sander a journalist with weekly sports newspaper Sportzeitung and Editor at 90minuten.at with a critical focus on Austrian football.