Promotion or relegation: Austria’s women’s national football team face a knockout match against Scotland in Glasgow on Thursday (8.35 pm/live ORF 1). The dream of a first-ever World Cup ticket can only survive if the ÖFB selection can survive at Hampden Park. However, this will only be an interim step towards the start of the playoffs. Ireland await the winner of Tuesday’s second and final European round in front of their home crowd.
Looking at the FIFA world rankings, Austria has a slight edge in the battle for numbers 20 and 23. “But I don’t think three places will make a big difference in the world rankings. I think it’s a 50:50 game. We can realistically assess that a really strong opponent awaits,” said ÖFB team boss Irene Fuhrmann. The Scots can also rely on home advantage. “It’s fun to be able to compete at Hampden Park, but the away game doesn’t really play into our hands,” Viennese said.
On Monday, team players from different countries traveled to Glasgow, where they only had time to work on the pitch on Tuesday and Wednesday. “It’s going to be a very tight, run-heavy game,” Furman suspected. The very strong Scots rely on a very vertical game, rarely long balls behind the defensive line. “It is important to secure the first balls so that there is no running duel,” urged the 42-year-old.
The best-known of the Scottish squad is midfielder Caroline Weir, who has been with Real Madrid since the summer. Also, Erin Cuthbert from Chelsea or striker Martha Thomas from Manchester United ensure quality. “We know what’s coming,” Furman emphasized. The opponent has one World Cup participation (2019) in front of the ÖFB team, but surprisingly after participating in the premiere at the latest European Championship in England in the summer of 2017.
As in the World Cup qualifiers, Austria faced Northern Ireland along with European champions England. Now it was time to play again against a British opponent. In terms of quality, Scots is somewhere in between. The ÖFB squad has always lost against them in three attempts. 1:2 home, 0:5 away in qualifying for the 2003 World Cup and a 1:3 test defeat in the Cyprus Cup in March 2017. Since then, Captain Karina Wenninger and her team have developed a lot. “We’ve never been able to win. I like the challenge, it’s good for me,” Furman said.
Nerves play a crucial role in this. “We have a big historic opportunity and we don’t want to let it go,” emphasized the ÖFB team boss. A win against Scotland would set up a “really interesting showdown” against Ireland. “The most important thing is that the players don’t tense up and don’t overdo it,” Furman said. On the field, with potential rain and strong winds, it is important to strike a good balance between safety and risk.
Sara Sadrasil plays a central role, who has to set the tone in the midfield. “We are very good in pressure games and we proved that at the Euros,” said the Bayern legionnaire, looking ahead with optimism. She didn’t want to know anything about the preferred role. “From the outside looking in, all the runners-up are a category apart in terms of level,” the 29-year-old said. She didn’t want to get too involved with a “physically strong” opponent. “It is important to focus on ourselves, and we must rely on our strengths.”
It includes attack pressing and dueling behavior. “It’s important that we have the necessary composure and review when in possession to resolve situations,” Sarah Pundigum said before a duel with a “very uncomfortable” opponent. He is coached by Pedro Martinez Llosa. The 46-year-old Spaniard has been in office since August 2021 and is respected for the task as the ÖFB selection reached the quarter-finals at the European Championship. “They did well not only in the European Championships but also in the World Cup qualifiers,” said the Scotland coach.
Besides Wenninger, he singled out goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger and striker Nicole Billa. But we are ready to challenge them, Llosa promised. The event at Hampden Park inspired his team even more. It remains to be seen how full it will be. “The fans can push the team forward, the players need that extra boost. That’s a very important factor,” Llosa said. On the other hand, an unblemished record against Austria played no part. “The way women’s football has evolved, I don’t think these matches will have any impact on Thursday’s game.”
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