Austria had never qualified for the European Championship before, but they coasted to Euro 2016, winning nine from nine after drawing their opener against Sweden. In March they reached an all-time high of 10th in the FIFA rankings.
Lesson from qualifying
This team showed attributes not common to Austria’s national side, including the ability to remain focused and close out games. It’s no coincidence, surely, that the majority of the squad now play in Germany; goalkeeper Robert Almer is likely to be their only domestic-based player at Euro 2016.
Austria can switch quickly from defence to offense: only two teams in qualifying averaged fewer passes before taking a shot. The strong central axis, from Aleksandar Dragovic to talismanic striker Marc Janko, is supported by speedy players on both wings.
Free-scoring Janko would be a hard man to replace if the need arose. Marcel Koller’s men aren’t very successful with set-pieces, either, though the threat provided from direct free-kicks by Zlatko Junuzovic and David Alaba could come in handy.
Most likely to...
Talk about eliminating Germany later on, but forget to beat rivals Hungary first.
Least likely to...
Play Alaba in defence. The Bayern left-back is virtually a playmaker for his country.
What they hope will happen
Invoke the ‘12-year-rule’. Denmark in 1992, Greece in 2004… time for another outsider?
What will happen
They’ll escape the group but lose to fellow runners-up England or Russia in the last 16.
Key player - Aleksandar Dragovic
Centre-back Dragovic just edges it over the versatile Alaba, as the Dynamo Kiev man is key to the Austrians’ organisation. He’s the reason they were able to compensate for the Bayern Munich star’s absence in both qualifiers against Russia, with Austria winning each tie 1-0.
Manager - Marcel Koller
Sceptics weren’t in short supply when the former Grasshoppers and 56-cap Switzerland midfielder was appointed in 2011, but there are fewer of them now. The 55-year-old’s biggest achievement is giving Austria self-belief.
Q&A - Christian Fuchs
How did it feel to qualify for the first time, having hosted in 2008?
We’re making history and I’m proud to be captain. We won 4-1 in Sweden to qualify and that felt outstanding.
Were you surprised to drop only two points throughout qualifying?
That was amazing, because Sweden and Russia were the group favourites – but the more it went on, the more we thought we had a big chance. Something’s changed since Marcel Koller took over. We’re consistent.
You’ve had a good year, all told...
Yes, everything has been working out really well. Like Leicester, Austria are good as a team; every player knows it takes a lot of work. Well-known players like Alaba and Marko Arnautovic wouldn’t be as good without this great team around them. We want to get out of the group, but Hungary and Iceland won’t be as easy as people think.
Do Austrians find your surname as amusing as English people do?
[Laughs] You guys don’t know how to pronounce it! There’s no cursing involved – it just means ‘fox’. It’s a very normal word in Austria!
Fixtures and results
June 14, Hungary - Bordeaux, Midnight
June 19, Portugal - Paris, 3am
June 22, Iceland - Saint-Denis, Midnight
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Group G winners
vs Sweden (H) 1-1
vs Moldova (A) 2-1
vs Montenegro (H) 1-0
vs Russia (H) 1-0
vs Liechtenstein (A) 5-0
vs Russia (A) 1-0
vs Moldova (H) 1-0
vs Sweden (A) 4-1
vs Montenegro (A) 3-2
vs Austria (H) 3-0
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD
2008 Group stage
Words Philipp Ertl; Interview Chris Flanagan
Samsung SUHD TV with Quantum Dot Display offers the best soccer viewing experience.