Having only qualified for one Euro Championship as co-hosts in 2008, Austria continue to improve beyond all recognition.
Will Euro 2016 be the tournament at which its young squad comes of age? Let’s assess Austria’s chances of progress in the summer.
Route to Euro 2016
Austria qualified for Euro 2016 as winners of Group G. They won nine of their 10 qualifiers and drew once with Sweden. Twin wins over eventual runners-up, Russia, were vital in securing their route to the finals in France.
They saved the best until last when hammering Sweden 4-1 in Stockholm. It was ultimately Austria’s skill on the counter attack that left the Swedes vulnerable.
Veteran striker Marc Janko scored seven times and left-back/midfielder David Alaba netted four. Austria finished qualifying eight points clear of second-placed Russia.
Euro 2016 is the Austria national team’s second European Championships. The first was in 2008, when they qualified automatically as co-hosts with Switzerland.
At Euro 2008, Austria drew with Poland. They also lost to Croatia and Germany, which meant they didn’t reach the knockout stage.
As a manager, Swiss Marcel Koller has won two league titles in his native country: one with St. Gallen and the other with Grasshoppers Zürich.
In 2004, Koller led VfL Bochum to promotion in his first year there. He managed to keep them in the Bundesliga for four seasons, but got the sack after a run of poor results that many blamed on his defensive style.
Koller spent a two-year spell studying coaching in Italy and Germany, before becoming the surprise choice for manager of the Austria national team.
The core of his squad draws from the promising group of youngsters that made it to the U-20 World Cup semi-finals in 2007. Many credit Koller with fostering the tremendous team spirit which led Austria to finish qualifying eight points clear at the top of the table.
Most important player
David Alaba is widely thought to be the best left-back in the world. He also excels as the left-sided centre-back, as a midfielder, and even in the number 10 role. At club level, Bayern Munich use his versatility and class to their full advantage.
Koller plays his captain, Christian Fuchs, at left back. This allows him to use Alaba in midfield, where his superb tackling, pace, vision and eye for goal make him key to Austria’s future plans.
Alaba has won the Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup and the Austrian Footballer of the Year award five times.
Marcel Sabitzer is a fast left-winger with an eye for goal and exceptional dribbling skills. The 22-year-old can also play in a more central role.
Sabitzer was the object of interest from Manchester United and Juventus at 18. But he chose to move to RB Leipzig because he wanted to be sure of regular first team football.
Koller has done wonders by instilling great team spirit in the promising youngsters who make up the core of his squad. There is no doubt that the current Austria squad are a different class from the one that represented the nation as co-hosts at Euro 2008.
We believe that this group of young players will continue to get better and better, and should progress to the knockout stages.
As it stands, there are other teams with more experience of major tournaments who are more likely to shine the brightest this time around.