Austria ready for physical game against the Republic of Ireland
Confidence of home team shaken after some poor performances against Germany
Austria coach Marcel Koller: “It will be a physical game with a lot of second balls, which we already experienced in the away game. We have to be ready to take on the battle and be willing to cover a lot of ground on the day.” Photograph: Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters
Ahead of the visit of the Republic of Ireland to Vienna, Austria have insisted that their approach will not change much despite tomorrow’s match being practically a case of win or bust for both teams.
While Ireland slumped to defeat against Sweden on Friday, Austria were swept aside by Germany in Munich.
Those results mean that both Ireland and Austria are three points behind Sweden in the race for a World Cup play-off spot in Group C. Another defeat tomorrow would surely end either team’s hopes of featuring in Brazil next year.
Considering Austria have to travel to Sweden next month, Ireland’s loss on Friday was also a bad outcome for Marcel Koller’s side. However, the Austrians maintain that the weekend results have changed little.
“That we had to beat the Irish,” midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz said, “that was already clear. And I’m assuming that we’ll succeed.”
Austrian captain Christian Fuchs also said the comprehensive 3-0 defeat to Group C leaders Germany was of little relevance. “We have to look after our direct rivals, Ireland and Sweden, and we still have to play them both.”
Austria’s confidence has been somewhat shaken, however, with new Stoke winger Marko Arnautovic and Schalke left back Fuchs being particularly disappointing against Germany.
Since that game Koller has had to dismiss suggestions that Bayern Munich’s David Alaba should replace Fuchs by moving from central midfield to the position he plays for his club.
Central midfielder Veli Kavlak will likely play against Ireland with a mask after breaking his nose in Friday’s game, while Austrian plans are further complicated by the continued absence of injured Werder Bremen playmaker Zlatko Junuzovic. Mainz midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger returns from suspension, though, to boost Koller’s midfield options.
Giant Trabzonspor striker Marc Janko, who came on in Dublin and scored in the win over Sweden in June, could start up front.
Well beaten by Germany, Austria are expecting Ireland to pose plenty of problems too.
“It’ll be a different game in which it’s certain that we’ll have more possession,” Koller said. “Against Sweden, Ireland proved that they also have good footballers, at least for the first half. It will be a physical game with a lot of second balls, which we already experienced in the away game. We have to be ready to take on the battle and be willing to cover a lot of ground on the day.
“We have to play football and not try to do the same as the Irish. We mustn’t forget that. That can happen, but we should be looking to combine well to get forward. Then you have to be ready physically because they don’t hold back.”
Ireland lost 3-1 on their last visit to the Ernst-Happel Stadion in Vienna when the unheralded Peter Stoeger scored a hat-trick in a European Championship qualifier in 1995.
Watching the home team applauded on to the pitch by 48,5000 supporters – to the tune of Radetzky March by Johann Strauss – is an impressive and intimidating sight. And just as they did against Sweden, Koller is banking on the fans to make a difference tomorrow.
“The stadium is full,” he said. “I hope they’ll back us up. When you’re playing three days later there’ll be times when you’re under pressure. When you have the 12th man behind you, you can go beyond your limits on the pitch.”
Arnautovic also stressed how vital home advantage could be.
“This is the most important game in the group. Now is not the time for people to pick on us or speak negatively about us.
“Just like Germany dominated against us, we have to dominate the game against Ireland.”
Eleven of the Austrian squad will miss the game in Sweden should they be booked tomorrow but Janko insists that they are ready to match Ireland for however long it takes.
“The Irish team always fight until the last second. It’s going to be a game that challenges us until the very end, but we’re ready.”