Austria come into Euro 2016 off the back of a dominant qualifying campaign. They topped Group G ahead of Russia and Sweden, dropping only two points over 10 games and notching up 22 goals in the process.
Their qualifying campaign, led by Swiss coach and former international player Marcel Koller, can be considered all the more successful for the fact that Austria had never actually qualified for a European Championship before (their only finals coming in 2008, when they co -hosted the tournament with Switzerland). Koller has reinstated some confidence in the national side and they have had some remarkable results, the most notable being a 4-1 thrashing of Sweden in Stockholm. Despite all this however, Austria are still considered outsiders – but will they turn out to be this tournament’s dark horses?
Austria possesses a genuine world class player in David Alaba. The Bayern Munich utility man has become one of the world’s finest left backs under the guidance of Pep Guardiola. He has been Austria’s player of the year for five consecutive seasons with 44 caps to his name and he is still only 23 years old. When playing for the national team he has been deployed in central midfield where they maximise the effect of his sheer ability and athleticism.
Other key members of the squad include veteran striker Marc Janko and Dynamo Kiev’s tough-tackling centre back Aleksander Dragovic. Austria’s captain is the recently crowned Premier League champion Christian Fuchs, who had a remarkable season at left back for Leicester City in their fairytale season.
Austria also have a couple of young aces up their sleeve: Marcel Sabitzer is a pacey and unpredictable young forward with a lot of potential, and Kevin Wimmer has shown his defensive prowess this season at Tottenham Hotspur.
After such a strong campaign in qualifying, Austria and Portugal are the favourites to make it out of their group. First up for Austria are rivals Hungary, followed four days later by the significant test of Portugal at the Parc des Princes. The ‘Wunderteam’ have the ability to turn defence into attack very quickly, a strategy which, if used well, could ensure them a very interesting summer indeed.