Wednesday 21 February 2018

Austria boss Koller taking heart from Keane's absence

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

AUSTRIA coach Marcel Koller breathed a sigh of relief when he heard Irish skipper Robbie Keane would miss tonight's crucial qualifier.

Koller brings his side to Dublin on the back of a 6-0 drubbing of the Faroe Islands but he expects goals will be at a premium in this match.

In that respect, the Swiss-born coach feels there will be slightly less pressure on his own back line with Keane out through injury.

"Keane is a very experienced player so he cannot just be replaced easily by another player," said Koller (pictured right). "He has given great value to Ireland, he is very experienced, and is well loved by the fans, so it could be an advantage to us that he is not playing."

However, the Austrian boss does expect some difficulty for his defenders in combating the physical presence of Conor Sammon.

"I'm not really surprised that Ireland have selected Conor Sammon to play. He has a talent in the air and, in a home game, we could expect him to be a strong opponent," said Koller.

The visiting manager won't be naming his team until shortly before kick off but hopes that his main injury-concern Gyorgy Garics will be fit to play. Otherwise he remained tight-lipped about the composition of his side

"Ireland played an intensive game against Sweden and they could have won. Especially in the first 30 minutes they could have scored," he said.

"Ireland were strong in defence and midfield, and gave a very powerful performance. They caused Sweden many problems."

Trapattoni is well known in Austria but Koller hopes the Italian's experience won't be of great benefit tonight.

"I have not been in Austria a long time myself, so I don't know him well," he said.

"He has a great international reputation and he has obviously got a lot of respect from all his colleagues in the game.

"Trapattoni does know one or two players from his days at Salzburg but I don't think that is much of an advantage. Players he knows may not play in the match."

The match is a must-win for Ireland but Koller takes a broader view.

"Of course we would like to win the game but we will have to earn it," he said.

"Ireland, Sweden and Austria are very close in the table and we want to be in the shake-up in November, so this is a very important game for us, and also for Ireland.

"Losing this game would not decide the group or second place.

It will not be necessarily fatal, but a defeat would make things more difficult for the losing side.

"It's a fact we don't do so well away, so it is up to us to change that.

"It is always difficult to play away but we will have about 3,000 fans of our own and we hope they can make themselves heard among the crowd of 50,000.

"We will do all we can on the pitch to make them proud."

Irish Independent

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