Monday 23 October 2017

'History means nothing' - Austria wary of threat Ireland pose in crucial World Cup qualifier

Alessandro Schoepf
Alessandro Schoepf

Aidan Fitzmaurice in Vienna

The Austrian camp are adamant that history will have no bearing on Saturday's World Cup tie at home to Ireland.

After a poor start to the qualifying campaign, Austria are in need of points to stay in the race for Russia 2018 and defeat here on Saturday would leave them six points behind Ireland, even at this early stage a large gap to make up for a side who have struggled for form since Euro 2016 qualification was secured 12 months ago.

The Austrians, playing in front of a sell-out crowd which included 3,066 Irish fans, hope they can count on their good home record, the side unbeaten at home in competitive games in four years, while they also have the edge over Ireland in terms of history.

Ireland's first game in Austria, a friendly in 1952, ended in a 6-0 loss with the same scoreline for a European Championship qualifier, in Linz, back in 1971 when a side made up mainly of League of Ireland players lost heavily.

The Republic have played seven times in Austria with one draw and six defeats and only two goals scored on Austrian soil.

But influential midfielder Alessandro Schöpf says he's not swayed by that. "History means nothing, it's not important, we have to take care of the present day," he told in Vienna today.

While Ireland are dealing with injuries to key men like Shane Long, James McCarthy and Stephen Ward, Austria have problems of their own.

Two likely starters, defender Sebastian Prödl (Watford) and playmaker Zlatko Junuzović (Werden Bremen) are out of the squad. They now look to the 22-year-old Schalke man Schöpf , who scored Austria's only goal at the Euro 2016 finals, to be their creative force.

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