Austria captain Polster led famous comeback in 1995
Philipp Hosiner will be asked to lead the line against Ireland
Philipp Hosiner of Austria celebrates after scoring his second goal during the 2014 World Cup qualifying Group C soccer match against Faroe Islands.
When Austria last visited Dublin in June 1995, Ireland were still trying to work out how they had managed to draw 0-0 in Liechtenstein eight days previously.
But the Irish summer would get a whole lot worse, as an Austrian side led by Toni Polster came from behind to stun Jack Charlton’s side once again.
Ray Houghton had given Ireland the lead in the final quarter but Austria’s captain inspired a famous comeback – planting a long-range free-kick and a thumping header beyond Alan Kelly as the visitors scored three times inside 10 minutes.
Eighteen years on, Austria’s record goalscorer believes they can – and must – repeat that success if they harbour realistic ambitions of reaching the World Cup finals for the first time in 16 years.
“I hope so but it won’t be easy,” Polster said. “It’s without question a difficult game. But we almost have to win already if we want to qualify and it’s always difficult when there’s pressure on you to win a game.
“So I think a draw won’t help us or Ireland. Ireland should also play for a win and try to get three points.”
Austria’s campaign got off to a stuttering start with a defeat at home to Germany being followed by a scoreless draw in Astana.
But they will arrive in Dublin today full of confidence having scored 10 goals in their past two qualifiers in Vienna, a 4-0 win in the reverse fixture against Kazakhstan in October and a 6-0 drubbing of the Faroe Islands on Friday.
While they no longer possess a striker of Polster’s quality, Marcel Koller has plenty of attacking options for tomorrow’s match.
Martin Harnik is available again after recovering from flu, while Andreas Weimann did his chances of starting no harm by setting up two goals after coming on against the Faroe Islands. The Aston Villa player’s familiarity with Ireland’s all-Premier League defence also plays in his favour.
Lead the line
However, Polster expects that Austria Vienna striker Philipp Hosiner will be asked to lead the line against Ireland. The 23-year-old has scored 27 goals for the Austrian league leaders this season and he scored twice on his first start for Austria on Friday after Marc Janko decided not to risk aggravating a thigh problem.
“Marc Janko was injured [for Friday’s game] and the problem he has is that he’s hardly played at all in the past year,” Polster said. “So because of this I think Hosiner will start on Tuesday.
“I’d have to say he’s our best striker at the moment. And I also think that having scored twice against the Faroe Islands, he’ll definitely start on Tuesday even if Janko is fit.”
Austria co-hosted Euro 2008 along with Switzerland but they have not qualified for a major tournament since Polster’s playing days, when they twice reached the World Cup in the 1990s.
The former Austria Vienna, Sevilla and Cologne striker feels they are making progress but he is not too confident that they can end their barren run.
“In 1990 and 1998 I was the Austrian captain but we’re a small country and we can’t always expect to qualify.
“But 1998 was the last time we qualified so it would be nice to do it again this time and it’s about time that we did.”