It was hardly surprising that the FB team bus arrived at the team camp in Msern at 1:07 a.m. with good-humored passengers. Even from a distance, despite the closed windows, it was impossible to detect that loud music was being played. David Alaba or Marko Arnautovicsangen according to Austrian pop hits by Rainhard Fendrich such as “Weus’d a Herz host wia a Bergwerk” or “Strada del Sole” or the STS classics “Grandvater” and “Frstenfeld”.
Before that, bus driver Stefan Kutsenits picked up the FB convoy at Innsbruck Airport, where the flight from Bucharest landed after 1:43 hours at 0.19 a.m. Winning goalie Christoph Baumgartner gave the all-clear after being substituted. The head no longer causes great pain. Probably also because he and his teammates hit almost every note.
Aleksandar Dragovic was also in a good mood: “Now you can have another beer. But then the whole focus will be on Italy.” FB team boss Franco Foda, who raised his winning fist when leaving the bus, also turned a blind eye that evening before “dinner” was served in the Hotel Nidum. Training on Tuesday was moved back from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Made history for the second time”
Shortly after their return, their eyes were directed to the front again: Austria’s national football players are aware of the hurdle that will build up in front of them on Saturday (9:00 p.m. / live ORF 1) in the European Championship round of 16 in London. The Italians have become tournament favorites with three impressive wins in the group stage. They are already unbeaten in 30 games. The convincing performance in the group final on Monday against Ukraine (1-0) leaves the FB team dreaming of a surprise. “We already know that Italy are probably the best team in the tournament in terms of the complete package with defensive and offensive,” said FB goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann, who was a firm support in Bucharest in his fifth international match. “Italy are great at the moment. But if we play like this, offensively in the first half and defensively in the second half, I think we can make life difficult for any team.”
The stadium, which will be played on Saturday, has a special appeal for the England Legionr. “There is no bigger football stage than Wembley Stadium in London,” said Bachmann, who was promoted to the Premier League with Watford last season. For him, the venue would have advantages and disadvantages: Because of the entry and exit regulations in Great Britain, his wife and children can be there – his parents, like all other FB fans who would have to travel from Austria, cannot.
Video: Ex-national team player Marc Janko analyzes Austria’s sensational rise to the European Championship in a ZiB interview:
“This is the second time we’ve made history for Austrian football,” said Bachmann. The FB team’s first EM victory against North Macedonia (3-1) was followed by their first entry into the knockout phase of a continental tournament. “We will enjoy that. Then we will prepare for the game on Saturday and hopefully move into the quarter-finals.” There it would go on July 2nd in Munich with Belgium against another top favorite – or a third party to be determined.
Xaver Schlager didn’t want to think too far ahead. “Now we’re happy about this win,” said the midfield dynamo, who played an extremely strong game against the Ukrainians. “That is not the end yet. We are now in a knockout phase in the tournament,” said the Wolfsburg legionnaire before the nightly return to the team quarters in Seefeld. There will be regeneration on Tuesday – before the preparation for Italy begins.
“Everyone saw that they played a great group stage and were unbeaten for a long time,” said Schlager. “In the end it is a thing of the past, it no longer matters.” It’s just a game in which anything can happen. “We won’t get very far with hiding. We won’t do that.” FB captain David Alaba, who dismantled the Ukrainian attacking star Andrij Jarmolenko as left-back, saw it similarly: “We are here to dream. Let’s see what goes on there. We saw how Italy played in the group stage, but at Wembley , this is going to be great. ” Alaba has fond memories of the stadium, as it won the Champions League there in 2013.
Foda with dances of joy
In the hour of his greatest triumph as the Austrian football team boss, Franco Foda put aside his matter-of-fact, sober character. Immediately after the 1-0 win over Ukraine and the associated move into the European Championship round of 16 against Italy, the German performed on Monday on the lawn of the Bucharest Arena Nationala, made the wave in front of the domestic fans who had traveled with him and hugged his players and even FB- President Leo Windtner. The big goal of leading the red-white-red selection into a EURO-knockout phase for the first time was achieved. Foda does not want to be satisfied with that – the coach speculates with a surprise on Saturday at Wembley Stadium, even if Italy has made perhaps the strongest impression of all the final round participants. “Anything is possible in a game. If you are in the round of 16, of course you want to go to the quarter-finals,” said Foda.
Shortly after the final whistle, the team boss was overwhelmed by his feelings. “The emotions were great, those are the beautiful moments in football,” said Foda, thanking his supervisors and all FB employees enthusiastically and emphasizing the historical significance of the success: “We wanted to make history, that has always been our topic . ” After the 3-1 win over North Macedonia, the FB team’s first ever victory at an European Championship, they have now made it into the knockout phase – and with an impressive performance. “I’m very proud of the team and how they performed. You could tell from the first minute that we wanted to win,” said Foda.
As a small downer, Foda assessed the fact that the game wasn’t decided earlier. “The only drawback was that we should have scored more goals in the first half. And in the second half we didn’t finish the counter-situations well.” However, the national coach did not want this to be taken as a criticism – the joy of what had just been achieved was too great.
The performance was “impressive” and “a top performance at the right time,” said Foda, but did not want to speak of the best national team performance under his leadership. “We also played a lot of good games in the European Championship qualification, otherwise we would not have qualified,” stressed Foda and also mentioned the Nations League away win against Norway in September last year.
On Monday evening it was clear that a draw against Ukraine would have been enough for his team to get promoted – in this case, they would have been one of the four best group thirds in the round of 16. “But we never talked about the fact that a draw would be enough for us,” said Foda.
There will definitely be no draw in the next FB game. For the first time since the victory against Uruguay on July 3, 1954 in Zurich, Austria is playing a game for third place in a major tournament in which there has to be a winner. Against Italy you go into the game as a clear outsider. “At first it looks like the task is impossible because the Italians haven’t lost a match in a long time. But if we perform like today and go one step further, we also have the opportunity to prevail against Italy “said Foda.
The “Squadra Azzurra” have been unbeaten in 30 international matches and have won their most recent eleven games with a goal difference of 32-0. “At some point the day will come when something doesn’t work in Italy either,” suspected Foda, the son of an Italian. Scouts provided the coach with information about the four-time world champion, and he also saw two of Italy’s three group games live on television. “I already have a plan for how we can play against them,” said the national coach.
No newspaper read
A possible penalty shootout doesn’t really play a role in this plan, according to Foda. You do not want to deliver a defensive battle against the big favorite, but take the initiative yourself. “I assume that the game will not end 0-0,” said Foda, who will probably be able to count on Christoph Baumgartner, who has been replaced due to a head injury, again against Italy. “He’s doing well so far. He had vertigo problems, so we decided to replace him,” said the team boss.
According to his own statements, Foda has not read a newspaper for two weeks, not even after the opening win against North Macedonia. “I just didn’t want to be influenced by anything. But maybe I’ll check it out tomorrow,” smiled the former Sturm Graz coach.