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Long gone are the days of the 'Wunderteam'
by Paul Kennedy, November 19th, 2013 12:06AM
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TAGS:  men's national team


[AUSTRIA-USA] After Scotland, the USA faces Austria, another team whose best days are behind it. Austria hasn't qualified for the World Cup since 1998 and it owes its lone appearance at the European Championship in 2008 to the fact it served as co-host. That didn't prevent the Austrians from going out in the first round without a win and with only one goal to its credit.

Tuesday's game (TV: NBC Sports Network and UniMas, 2:45 pm ET) in Vienna is a homecoming of sorts for the USA. Its assistant coach, former Austrian international, Andreas Herzog, resides in Vienna. Indeed, it was Herzog who qualified Austria for the 1998 World Cup with a goal immortalized on a lenticular stamp, considered the greatest soccer stamp ever made. (The stamp, which costs $6, shows Herzog goal from three different angles.)

It says something about the modern era of Austrian soccer that its greatest contribution is to philately. Herzog holds the Austrian record for caps (103) and is one of few notable Austrians of the last quarter century along with Anton Polster, Austria's all-time leading scorer.

Austria's current star is David Alaba, who was born in Vienna to a Nigerian father and Filipino mother and left home at the age of 16 to join Bayern Munich. Only 21, he's the heavy favorite to earn his third straight Austrian Player of the Year award.

Austria was still alive for the World Cup -- at least for second place in its group behind Germany and a possible playoff berth -- until its second-to-last game when it lost at Sweden, 2-1, in a game it led until almost the hour mark.

It's a relatively young team with most of the best players playing abroad. Aleksandar Dragovic (Dynamo Kiev), Zlatko Junuzovic (Werder Bremen) and Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City) are all Serbian immigrants, none older than 26.

Austria was an international power during the 1930s -- its "Wunderteam" was fourth at the 1934 World Cup and would have been one of the favorites in 1938 if Austria had not been annexed by Germany -- and early 1950s -- it finished third at the 1954 World Cup.

It reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 1978 and 1982 with a team that included such stars as Hans Krankl, Herbert Prohaska and Bruno Pezzey.

The decline of the national team has coincided with the fall from grace of Austria's big clubs. No Austrian club has ever won a European title, but clubs like Rapid Vienna, Austria Vienna and Casino Salzburg (now Red Bull Salzburg) used to be contenders.

Austria Vienna qualified for the group stage of the Champions League for the first time this season, but its record so far this fall tells you everything you need to know about the state of Austrian soccer.

Austria Vienna has yet to score a goal in four games.

Austria Roster:
GOALKEEPERS: Robert Almer (Energie Cottbus), Heinz Lindner (Austria Vienna), Ramazan Ozcan (Ingolstadt).
DEFENDERS: Aleksandar Dragovic (Dynamo Kiev), Christian Fuchs (Schalke 04), Grorgy Garics (Bologna), Martin Hinteregger (Red Bull Salzburg), Florian Klein (Red Bull Salzburg), Manuel Ortlechner (Austria Vienna), Sebastian Prodl (Werder Bremen), Markus Suttner (Austria Vienna), Kevin Wimmer (Colonge).
MIDFIELDERS: David Alaba (Bayern Munich), Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City), Julian Baumgartlinger (Mainz 05), Guido Burgstaller (Rapid Vienna), Martin Harnik (VfB Stuttgart), Andreas Ivanschitz (Levante), Zlatko Junuzovic (Werder Bremen), Veli Kavlak (Besiktas), Christoph Leitgeb (Red Bull Salzburg).
FORWARDS: Lukas Hinterseer (Wacker Innsbruck), Marc Janko (Trabzonspor), Philipp Zulechner (Groedig).

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Michael Orozco (Puebla)
MIDFIELDERS: Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Roma), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Stoke City)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders), Aron Johannsson (AZ), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

  1. Dan Phillips
    commented on: November 19, 2013 at 12:29 p.m.
    Can't understand why JK has not called in Timmy Chandler, the best right back the US has!!!
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: November 19, 2013 at 1:25 p.m.
    Dan, let's not get over-excited about one player when the only salvation of any magnitude for the MNT is team execution and effort; we just don't have anyone on the squad that deserves a 'superlative.' JK is doing the best he can with what he has, and that is athleticism, athleticism, and on occasion execution.
  1. Dan Phillips
    commented on: November 19, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.
    Fine. But Timmy Chandler is miles ahead of a guy like Eric Lichaj! So why pick him over Chandler? A natural Right Back that USMNT sorley needs! And I like JK but this ommission perplexes me! He worked so hard to get him cap tied, and now he doesn't bring him in. Puzzling to say the least.
  1. Edgar Soudek
    commented on: November 19, 2013 at 5:45 p.m.
    Well well well Mr. Kennedy...Austria very likely IS a shadow of its former glory, but that shadow was enough to show the limits of the USA squad, and could have easily won 3-1, or maybe 4-2, counting only clear chances....

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