by Jorge Ceron
Above: Action from Austria’s game with Northern Ireland. Photo: Irish FA.
Austria have assembled a squad that contains players who are more than capable of troubling the top nations. With Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger at the back, and quality from the likes of Viktoria Schnaderbeck, Carina Wenninger, Sarah Zadrazil, and Nicole Billa, the Austrians are capable of a strong tournament.
Jasmin Pal (Sand), Manuela Zinsberger (Arsenal), Andrea Gurtner (Granadilla Tenerife), Mariella El Sherif (Sturm Graz), Viktoria Schnaderbeck (Tottenham Hotspur), Katharina Naschenweng (Hoffenheim 1899, Verena Hanshaw (FFC Francfórt), Carina Wenninger (Bayern Munich), Sabrina Horvat (Koln), Laura Wienroither (Arsenal), Marina Georgieva (Sand), Katharina Schiechtl (Werder Bremen), Virginia Kirchberger (Eintracht Frankfurt), Jennifer Klein (St Polten), Barbara Dunst (Eintracht Frankfurt), Celina Degen (Hoffenheim 1899), Laura Feiersinger (FFC Francfórt), Lena Triendl (Sand), Marie-Therese Höbinger (Turbine Potsdam), Lara Felix, Sarah Zadrazil (Bayern Munich), Katja Wienerroither (Grasshopper Club Zürich), Lisa Kolb (Freiburg), Lisa Makas (St Polten), Stefanie Enzinger (St Polten), Nicole Billa (Hoffenheim 1899).
Irene Fuhrmann took over as national coach in July 2020. Fuhrmann is totally immersed in the direction of her national team. FOr almost 10 years, from 2011 to 2020 she was assistant to Dominik Thalhammer and was a part of Austria’s superb achievements at Euro 2017 when they reached the semi-finals.
Before that, in 2008 she was a coach for the Austrian U19 team. Most of her football career was spent at USC Landhaus Wien. The challenge for Fuhrmann and her team will not be easy, to overcome what was achieved in the last Euro, but the Austrian fans can rest easy, they are in the hands of a great coach.
In 2013 the Austrian women’s team came close to qualifying, but lost the playoff 3-1 on aggregate against Russia. But in 2017, they finally made it, and what a tournament they had. After getting through the group stage with wins over Switzerland (1-0) and Iceland (3-0), plus a 1-1 draw with France, they overcame Spain after a penalty shoot-out. This set up a semi-final with Denmark, which again went to penalties, but this time the Austrians were eliminated 3-0.
Austria qualified as one of the best second-place finishers in a group. Their campaign opened with a 3-0 over North Macedonia. The second game was more complicated, but a solitary goal from striker Nicole Billa in the 12th minute gave them the second win, this time away in Serbia. The third game repeated the dose against North Macedonia, but this time away, 3-0 was the score.
The matches against Kazakhstan were the easiest matches, the first game was decided with a 9-0 in favor of the Austrians with four goals from Hickelsberger and three from Nicole Billa. In the away match they won 5-0. Those games were just training to get to the most difficult matches of the qualifying campaign against the French favorites, the first game was in Vienna, and the match ended 0-0. In the game that decided the first place in the group, Austria defeated 3-0 by les Bleus. The last game was key, since the three points would clinch qualification as one of the best second-placed nations, and it was not until the 81st minute when Nicole Billa scored the winning goal against Serbia.
Without a doubt, it is their defense. In all the qualifiers for the European Championship, they only conceded three goals, and all of those came in one game against the French and are currently looking to repeat that stat in the World Cup qualifiers. This defence is commanded by veteran Bayern Munich defenders Carina Wenninger and Tottenham’s Viktoria Schnaderbeck, accompanied by English Arsenal player Laura Wienroither, and a group of young defenders who play for different FrauenBundesliga teams such as Katharina Naschenweng and Celina Degen from Hoffenheim. They will seek to zero out the hosts, plus powerful Norway with Northern Ireland also in the group.
Areas For Development:
A fairly competitive and balanced team wherever you look at it, a couple of excellent goalkeepers, defense is their strong point, a young but experienced midfield, and a forward line capable of scoring goals against the best teams in the world. However, they have a tough group. Opening against the powerful English, and close against one of the favorites, the Norwegians with a must-win game against Northern Ireland in between.
The player to watch for Austria is Nicole Billa: A born, lethal scorer who is at the right time, scoring goals and providing assists. The 26-year-old Kufstein striker is the main card that the Austrian team could be so strong. Billa made her debut at the age of 14 with Wacker Innsbruck, later moving to one of the most popular teams, St. Pölten-Spratzern, and from there he made the jump to the FrauenBundelisga with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in 2015. There at Hoffenheim, she had a quiet start, scoring six goals in her first two complete seasons.
But she did not lose patience, nor did the team lose it with her, in 2018/19, she scored nine goals, and for the following season, she finished as runner-up in the scoring charts of the FrauenBundesliga with 18 goals. In the 20-21 season and at the age of 25, she won the scoring title that season with 23 goals, becoming the first Austrian to achieve such an achievement in the German league. These are numbers that make their rivals in Group A worry a lot about her. Regarding the national team, Nicole Billa has impressive numbers, in 77 games she has scored 42 goals, although she has never scored a goal in the European Championship, so in this summer’s competition she will go out with everything to get her first goal.
It is unlikely the Austrians will have another fairytale-like Euro 2017 and it seems to me that they will go home early. They share a group with a couple of favourites. England will seek to get rid of the bad taste in their mouths of that Euro 2005 when they were hosts and did not manage to even get out of the group stage. Just a few months ago they met at Southampton, and England struggled to beat Austria 1-0, with that result the Austrians will cling to a good result against the hosts.
They also share a group with Norway, which is motivated by the return of one of the best players in the world, Ada Hegerberg. If they want to aspire to a hypothetical second round, this is the key game. Northern Ireland complete the group, and even this will pose a threat for Austria as the Northern Irish already drew against Austria in recent times.
6th July: England, 8pm, Old Trafford, Manchester.
11th July: Northern Ireland, 5pm, St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton.
15th July: Norway, 8pm, Amex Stadium, Brighton.
Impetus is previewing a different nation every day between now and the start of the European Championships. Click below to read the previously published articles:
FRANCE – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/25/euros-preview-france/