Austrian belief reinforced by precious late point prized from the Aviva
Team captain Fuchs says Austria ‘clearly the better side over the 90 minutes’
Ireland’s Conor Sammon competes with Austria captain Christian Fuchs at the Aviva. Photograph: Inpho
Just as a familiar sense of regret and foreboding swept though the Irish support on viewing David Alaba’s late equaliser on Tuesday, so too has it led to fresh optimism within Austria.
Most of the Austrian media suggested that the Bayern Munich player’s goal had allowed the country to keep dreaming of Brazil, while the players themselves argued it was the least that they had deserved for their efforts on the night.
The Austrian squad had regularly brought up Ireland’s physical nature ahead of their visit to Dublin. Few would have expected, however, to have seen the sort of frenzied aggression that hauled Giovanni Trapattoni’s side back into the game in the first half.
Journalists, players and the coaching staff highlighted the injury to Zlatko Junuzovic as a major turning point in the game. One reporter referred to the “mad” sliding tackle from James McCarthy that forced the attacking midfielder off midway through the first half.
The player himself posted a photo of the wounded knee on his Facebook page.
With five bloodied stitches and extensive bruising across it, it is perhaps fair to say McCarthy might not now have too many complaints about the yellow card he received for the challenge. Junuzovic, however, maintains that the injury is worse than it looks.
Seeing the Werder Bremen man depart no doubt played a part in Austrian coach Marcel Koller’s thinking at half-time, as he revealed that he had asked his players to combat the Irish aggression in the tackle and generally display more passion.
Alaba agreed that the half-time break was crucial.
“We gave ourselves a lot to do,” the 20-year-old said. “So now we’re relieved that we were able to bring something back.
“We started really well and held them back very well, but over time it became difficult. Nonetheless, we played okay overall.
“As a team we really believed that we could score until the last minute – we pushed each other forward the whole time.
“At half time we said that we’d have to keep believing – that we had to continue countering the very physical game Ireland were playing. Thank God we got our reward in the end.”
Junuzovic said he felt Ireland had resorted to a simple “kick and rush” style in the second half, and the Austrian captain, Christian Fuchs, was equally unimpressed.
“I have to say that Ireland did well to get a point,” the Schalke full-back said.
“We accepted the fight and got our reward with a deserved point. Over the 90 minutes we were clearly the better team.
“For me it was only a matter of time until we scored. The six goals we got against the Faroe Islands and this point could be worth their weight in gold.”
There are similarities with how the Irish camp felt after their draw in Sweden. While there were no complaints and perhaps a grudging admiration for Ireland’s robust approach, it is clear Austria feel they are a technically superior side.
The assumption being, of course, that they can take three points when the two sides meet again in September.
First though, they must attend to Sweden, who are the visitors on June 7th. According to Martin Harnik, who got the opening goal on Tuesday, the Irish result has not changed the context of the group for Austria.
“We’ll have to beat Sweden and Ireland at home to maintain our chances of qualifying for the World Cup,” the Stuttgart attacker said. “But that was already clear before this game.”
Since Tuesday, 30,000 tickets have been sold for Austria’s summer match against Sweden. The Austrian public obviously believe that Alaba’s late intervention could prove significant in the long run in the race to win a place in the play-offs for Brazil 2014.