Seven-time FIFA World Cup™ contenders Austria rank as outsiders in the race for a berth at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. The team from the Alpine republic missed out on the last three editions of the global showdown after failing to make an impression in qualifying. The main reason why their last appearance at the finals dates back to 1998 is a lack of consistency, with stirring displays too often followed by below-par performances.
FIFA World Cup finals history
The glory days for the Austrian national team are a fading memory. After finishing fourth at the second edition of the tournament in Italy in 1934, the team representing the nation of eight million achieved their best-ever placing 20 years later with third place at the 1954 finals in Switzerland. The best result in the next five appearances was seventh at Argentina 1978. Their most recent tilt at the title at France 1998 ended at the group stage.
The current crop
Austria are striving to assemble a healthy blend of promising young talent and battle-hardened veterans. Aleksandar Dragovic, David Alaba and Marko Arnautovic are showing immense promise at a young age, and all have made the breakthrough into the senior team. They are balanced by experience in the shape of much-travelled keeper Jurgen Macho, centre-back Emanuel Pogatetz, midfield battler Christian Fuchs and striker Stefan Maierhofer, who provide the spine of the team and a stable platform for the young guns to show off their skills.
The key players
Still a youth in footballing terms, Alaba already rates as the figurehead of a new Austrian generation. Assuming he continues his steady progress, the defensive midfielder could anchor the team for a full generation. Striker Arnautovic has an authentic nose for goal, but has been held back at times by disciplinary problems on and off the field. Pogatetz, a rock-solid defender, already has experience of the game at club level in Russia, England and Germany, where he currently plays.
Coach: Marcel Koller
Best performances in a FIFA competition: Men's Olympic Football Tournament Berlin 1936 (Runners-up), FIFA World Cup Switzerland 1954 (Third place), FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 (Fourth place)
Former stars: Toni Polster, Andreas Herzog, Hans Krankl