SportSoccer

Austria attempt to paint themselves as qualification underdogs ahead of Ireland clash

SoccerBy Sunday World
The Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, where the Boys in Green kick off against Austria at 5pm Irish time on Saturday
The Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, where the Boys in Green kick off against Austria at 5pm Irish time on Saturday

Skipper Julian Baumgartlinger has warned Austria's Group D rivals not to write off their hopes of World Cup qualification.

The Austrians entertain the Boys in Green in Vienna on Saturday evening trailing both Martin O'Neill's men and leaders Serbia by three points after taking just one from their double-header against Wales and the Serbs last month.

However, Baumgartlinger remains confident that a side which dropped only two points on their way to qualification for Euro 2016, where they managed just a single draw and fell at the first hurdle, can make an impression once again.

The Bayer Leverkusen midfielder said: "To me personally, it's a different situation now, you cannot compare the two qualification rounds. After the European qualification round, everyone speculated that we were going to be really successful at the Euros.

"Even there, every game was really close, so you can see that it can go either way.

"We know how hard it is and what we have to work on. We have to stop conceding goals and we have to improve the situation on the pitch and create good attacking situations.

"We have to think positively and we know we can come back. We won, we drew and then we lost a game, but we still think it is going to be a good, positive qualification round for us.

"We have analysed the tournament, we know what went wrong, but that's in the past and what is important is right now.

"The beginning was quite good, but then we lost some games where we did have some chances and we weren't as successful as we wanted to be, so we have to change a few things and work as hard as before to get better results.

"The Euros are in the past, they are not important any more."

Austria will be backed by a capacity crowd of around 51,000, including 3,200 Irish supporters, as they attempt to close the gap on the pace-setters with manager Marcel Koller hoping for a belated gift.

He celebrated his 56th birthday on the eve of the game for once under a measure of pressure after a disappointing finals tournament and a testing start to the new qualification campaign just a year after being hailed a national hero.

Asked how he had marked the occasion, Koller said: "It's the fifth birthday I have celebrated with the team already, so I'd rather celebrate a victory tomorrow.

"We want to win, that's for sure and we are going to do everything we can to win this game. But I think it's going to be a really close game.

"Ireland have had a good start to the qualification round and the last time we played them in World Cup qualification, it was a close game as well.

"Ireland will come here and try to take points from us and we will do everything we can to stop them."