Monday 5 December 2016

Austria in focus

Published 11/11/2016 | 13:21

David Alaba is one of the biggest stars in Austria's side
David Alaba is one of the biggest stars in Austria's side

The Republic of Ireland face Austria in Vienna on Saturday evening desperate to avenge a poor run of results against the hosts to keep their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign on track.

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Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at what stands between the Republic and their hopes of finishing a good 2016 in style.

FORM

Austria are ranked 30th by FIFA, three places higher than Ireland, although they endured a disappointing Euro 2016 finals campaign and currently lie fourth in Group D after three fixtures. They managed just a single point from their three group games in France courtesy of a 0-0 draw with eventual champions Portugal, and finished bottom of Group F. The fixture list for the new campaign has not been kind to Marcel Koller's men with a hard-fought 2-1 victory in Georgia being followed by a 2-2 draw with Wales in Vienna and a 3-2 defeat by leaders Serbia in Belgrade, and they will be determined to make the most of home advantage this time around.

COACH

Koller established himself as a national hero when he guided Austria to the Euro 2016 finals, no mean achievement for the former Switzerland international. Born in Zurich, he made his name as a midfielder with home-town club Grasshoppers and after launching his coaching career in his native country, had spells with Cologne and Bochum in Germany before stepping on to the international stage in November 2011. Such has been his success with Austria - he took his team to France with a return of 28 from a possible 30 points in a group which also included Russia and Sweden, in the process guiding them to a 10th-place world ranking - he signed a two-year contract extension in March.

TACTICS

Koller is under a degree of popular pressure to field his biggest star David Alaba at left-back, where he plays for club Bayern Munich, rather than as a shielding midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation, his role in the national team. The Austrians have already conceded one more goal in three games than they did during the entire qualification campaign for Euro 2016, hence the clamour for greater resilience. Stoke's Marko Arnautovic provides much of the attacking thrust from the left side of a three behind lone striker Marc Janko.

PLAYERS

Alaba and skipper Julian Baumgartlinger (Bayer Leverkusen) play their football in Germany, a measure of their quality, while Arnautovic has at times set the Premier League alight with his direct style of play. He and striker Janko each have two goals to their name during the campaign to date.

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