Austria – Euro 2008

What are the expectations for the team?
Expectations are pretty low with Austria for the first time not being listed in the top 100 of the FIFA rankings, below such teams as New Zealand and The Gambia. But the last game against the Netherlands has brought back some hope – Austria took a three-goal lead in the first half, although they did lose 4-3. Of course, when the Euro 2008 euphoria starts all the bad results of recent years will be forgotten. But with opponents such as Germany and Croatia euphoria may not be enough.

Are there any players who have appeared in TV commercials or other advertising?

Our captain Andreas Ivanschitz has been busy flogging LG television sets and the whole team like to eat at McDonald’s, which may offer a clue to their recent performances.

Is the coach popular?
Not that I know of. But Josef Hickersberger has proven that he can absorb a lot of criticism without needing counselling and has therefore has earned some respect among the fans and journalists. Hickersberger was also Teamchef for Austria’s worst ever result, the 1-0 defeat against the Faroe Islands in 1990. He knows that only a successful European Championship – that is, getting to the knockout stages – can help the nation to forget this embarrassment.

Which players are good interviewees and who are the worst?

Striker Roland Linz can be a difficult character but at least he shows a sense of humour. Goalkeeper Alex Manninger can also be entertaining, albeit unintentionally due to the hyper way he tends to behave in post-match interviews.

Are then any players with unusual hobbies or business interests?
In general the team is very young and the unspectacular hobbies range from snowboarding to going to cinema and eating popcorn. Defender Johnny Ertl plays guitar in a Rock band called Ohne Lizenz, which could be translated as “Without concession”, and goalkeeper Jürgen Macho – now with AEK Athens – used to be a member of the diehard supporters’ group Rapid Ultras in his early days in Vienna.

Do any of the players have famous girlfriends or wives?
Roland Linz used to be involved with an international swimmer, Fabienne Nadarajah – but that is a thing of the past. Why should famous women want to be connected with unknown footballers?

Will there be any rehearsed goal celebrations?

Last year Austria scored only seven times in 12 matches. There are no discussions about how best to celebrate goals.

Will any former players be involved in media coverage?

Players from the World Cups of 1978 and 1998 such as Hans Krankl and Toni Polster are doomed to spend the rest of their lives ranting about how they would take the national team to new heights if only someone would let them. But Krankl has already had his chance. One exception is Krankl’s contemporary, Herbert Prohaska, an Austria Vienna legend who also played in Italy. He analyses matches for the national channel ORF and – despite or even because of some linguistic problems – has somehow managed to become a national treasure.

Do Austrian fans have any favourite chants or songs?
Yes, but they are rather boring. Immer wieder Oesterreich (Forever Austria) is probably the best known. Try the league for much better chants.

Stefan Kraft