The road to New Zealand
Austria punched their ticket to the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015 by virtue of their two victories at the UEFA European U-19 Championship: 3-1 and 3-0 against hosts Hungary and Israel respectively. In their final group game they were on the wrong end of a narrow 2-1 loss to Portugal, but did enough to finish in second place, securing passage to the semi-finals and making absolutely sure of qualification for New Zealand 2015. In the semi-finals in Hungary, they succumbed 4-0 to eventual champions Germany.
Strengths and style
While the loss of star left-winger Sinan Bytyqi to a knee injury is a huge blow to the Austrians, captain Francesco Lovric - a tall, strong and tactically mature centre-half who plays his club football with Stuttgart - is sure to lead by example. Florian Grillitsch is another name to look out for. The Werder Bremen striker and Bytyqi were the only Austria players to net twice in Hungary, the former doing so in just three games. Austria Vienna midfielder Sascha Horvath, who played at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 and is an integral part of the current U-20 side, is a third player who could light up the tournament in New Zealand.
Former Austrian international Andreas Heraf has been in charge of the U-20s since 2008, combining the job with his role as director of youth development and the academy at the Austrian Football Association (OFB). Part of the last Austria squad to reach a FIFA World Cup™ - in France in 1998 - Heraf began his coaching career at Austria Lustenau in 2003 and later had stints at SC Schwanenstadt, ASKO Pasching and SC-ESV Parndorf, before joining the OFB. The 47-year-old and his charges will travel with confidence to New Zealand, no doubt wishing for a better result than they managed at the 2011 tournament in Colombia, when they fell at the group stages following heavy defeats to Brazil (3-0) and Egypt (4-0) and a goalless draw against Panama.
FIFA U-20 World Cup record
- This will be the fifth time that Austria have competed at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. They have failed to reach the knockout rounds in three of their four previous campaigns (in Tunisia in 1977, in Mexico in 1993 and in Colombia in 2011).
- Austria’s biggest success in this tournament came in the 2007 edition in Canada, when they lost in the semi-finals to the Czech Republic and finished fourth after a 1-0 defeat to Chile in the third-place play-off.
What they said
“The path that we’re taking at the OFB will be confirmed by our performance here and we will not stray from it. After 2007 and 2011, it’s fantastic to be represented at an U-20 World Cup again.”
OFB President Dr. Leo Windtner.