Austria are the dark horses to win Euro 2016

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Eight years ago to the month, Michael Kriess, arguably Austria's biggest football fan, created a petition called "Oesterreich zeigt Rueckgart," an Austro-German phrase translating to, "Austria shows backbone."

Through his half-hearted petition, Kreiss, the son of former Austria international, Bernd Kreiss, received 10,000 signatures from Austria fans all sharing the same idea that the Alpine outfit were simply "not worthy" of representing a country known for its fiercely nationalistic population.


Kreiss, one of four fans who set up the appeal calling for the Austria to withdraw from Euro 2008, ironically a tournament which the mountainous country were set to be hosting alongside close neighbours Switzerland in less than six months time, admitted that watching his home team sent him into a state of depression.


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Indeed, this cocktail of depression ultimately led the disgruntled fanatic to receive a fine from the Austrian Football Association for "bastarding" the country's football logo, where he obscured the famous eagle's head with a football.

Ultimately all of his ranting and raving stood for nothing, with "Unsere Burschen" who had only won three of their last 18 fixtures going into the tournament, to be pitted in a group alongside bigger and uglier sides such as Germany, Croatia and Poland.

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Two weeks later, and the whole of Austria was in jubilation. Josef Hickersberger's side who less than a month ago were labelled as the biggest embarrassment to Austria, might not have qualified to the knockout round, but they had pipped Poland to finishing third in Group B with one point.

All change 

Seven years later, and with several euros spent on improving the state of the Austrian Bundesliga and the nation's youth academy, the same team who once would count a win over Malta as a reason for celebration are now a completely different animal.

For a country who consider winter sports such as cross-country skiing and snowboarding to be their forte, it is only a matter of time until the Austrian national football team become the country's most recognisable export.

With Kreiss nowhere to be seen or heard, probably embarrassed about what has become of his beloved Austria, national papers such as Arbeiter-Zeitung and Der Kurier are boasting that Marcel Koller's rejuvenated side are capable of going all the way in France next year.

Indeed, who could possibly blame them. The Austrian national football team are now more of a joy than an embarrassment to watch, with Koller who inherited the team from Dietmar Constantini in 2011 creating a side who are now considered to be one of the big boys of world football.

Although Austria's transformation has been a slow and gruelling one, Das Team's ability to become the third team to qualify for Euro 2016 shows that the Reds and Whites are ready to make history.

Having been placed in a qualifying group filled with big names and tricky opponents such as Russia, Sweden and Montenegro, Austria did not just lie down and hope to pip play-off sport, but instead made each team run for the hills by topping the group having secured 22 points from seven wins and one draw.


Indeed, Koller's sides 4-1 victory away to Sweden earlier this month which sealed their passage to Euro 2016 as Group G winners perhaps was the best indication of what this current bunch of Austrian players stand for.

Power, precession, perfection and panache are just four words which describe a side who have risen to 13th in the FIFA world rankings.

At the heart of the team lies, Bayern Munich left-back, David Alaba, who is entrusted to play for his country in the centre of midfield, with the 23 year old doing both the breathing and the thinking.

Around him, bigger than life figures such as Marco Arnautovic, Zlatko Junuzovic and Martin Harnik ensure that any side interested in even thinking of penetrating their lines will not only have to go through these four men first but will have to deal with their own defence being breached.

Indeed, ensuring that striker Marco Janko has piece of mind by having several chances to find the back of the net, Austria have a defence which boasts an attractive blend of both youth and experience with captain, and Watford starter Christian Fuchs calling the shots at the back.

Although Austria might not have endless amounts of players who you could regard as being world beaters, they do have a side which is not only in perfect harmony with each other, but also united by one common goal of steering this alpine nation to their first ever piece of silverware.


Despite Koller realising that he is in charge of arguably Austria's best national team since the turn of the 1980's when Das Team qualified for both the 1978 and 1982 World Cup, the Zuerich-born manager states that he wants his side to go from strength to strength in the next few years.

"I am proud of what we have achieved. However, there is room for more improvement, and we all believe that we can make a difference," the 54-year-old was quoted saying in Kicker.

Such words of optimism were taken to another level by former great, Toni Polster, who stated that "We are no longer hiding from opponents anymore. let's see what happens in France next year." 

Whilst no one can deny the words of both Koller and Polster it can be said that they are being rather modest in their words and with big names such as Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany all looking shaky you would have to say that Austria are rightly eyeing up their chances. 



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