Belief key for Hitzlsperger
In a scenario that is exactly how UEFA EURO 2008 co-hosts Austria would have wanted it, Germany go into their final Group B game on Austrian soil needing a result against their less-fancied neighbours. The deciding match at the Ernst Happel stadium in Vienna is a sell-out, and the atmosphere at Monday evening's clash will surely be electric at the prospect of a potential major upset.
A win could see the co-hosts reach the last eight and relive their finest hour when, almost 30 years ago to the day, they beat Germany 3-2 at the 1978 FIFA World Cup Argentina™ in a game known in German football circles as 'The Cordoba debacle'. This time around the match is much closer to home, however, and at stake are pre-tournament favourites Germany's hopes of winning the European title.
Joachim Low's side have everything to lose, though they need just a point to qualify for the knockout phase. Fully aware that anything less would be seen as a disaster back home, Germany midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger was quick to warn against complacency in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com: "Austria will be a tough nut to crack."
'We are a very solid team'
The Stuttgart player, whose thunderous left foot earned him the nickname 'The Hammer' when he played for English side Aston Villa, is all too aware of the potential for an upset. He was in Germany's starting line-up when they last went to Vienna in February of this year and admits the Germans were flattered by a 3-0 win over Josef Hickersberger's side.
The midfielder, whose 18 appearances for his country since
Germany 2006 are more than any other member of the squad, could
well be in the starting line-up against Austria. This after the
German left flank looked highly fallible in the 2-1 setback against
Croatia. "We will analyse our mistakes and try to learn from
them," says the 26-year-old. "I'm confident because
we are actually a very solid team."
Munich-born Hitzlsperger has now won 34 senior caps for his country and sees EURO 2008 as his chance for a major breakthrough on the international scene. And he remains positive, despite the shock of the defeat against Croatia. "If we show the form we did against Poland, we will definitely progress into the knockout phase," he says.
A particular source of motivation for Hitzlsperger is the prospect of facing Croatia once more later on in the competition, having been very impressed by the team from the Adriatic coast. "The Croats were unbelievably strong," he tells FIFA.com. "You could say they're the tournament's dark horses."
First though he believes he and his Germany team-mates must go back to "taking it one game at a time", starting with Austria in Vienna. And who knows, maybe 'The Hammer' could be just the right implement for cracking this particular nut.