Austria can look back on three previous appearances at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the first of which came at the inaugural tournament in Tunisia in 1977. Defeats to Iraq and Paraguay, followed by a draw against the former Soviet Union saw the Alpine nation crash out at the first hurdle in north Africa. Their subsequent showing in Mexico six years later brought more of the same, as consecutive defeats against Argentina, Czechoslovakia and China PR consigned them to another group stage exit. Indeed, the Austrians' first real taste of success in the tournament came at Canada 2007, where they reached the semi-finals before losing out to Chile in the match for third place.
At last year's UEFA U-19 European Championship, Austria were the rank outsiders in a group also containing England, France and the Netherlands. A narrow 3-2 defeat to the Three Lions and a 5-0 hammering at the hands of France left their Colombia 2011 qualification hopes hanging by a thread, but coach Andreas Heraf's charges refused to give in and eventually secured their ticket with a hard-fought 1-0 victory against the Dutch. Midfielder Marco Djuricin was the hero, grabbing a crucial late winner from the spot.
Just as they were in qualifying, Austria will once again be considered among the underdogs at Colombia 2011. Still, the Europeans can take confidence from some promising displays at the last edition in Canada, while coach Heraf has a number of new faces to work with, not least Inter Milan's Christoph Knasmullner.
"We qualified for the World Cup in Colombia, which is a massive achievement. We're ecstatic, but it's testament to the excellent youth work we've been doing in Austria over the last few years," said Heraf after his side finished third in their section to qualify for the finals.