Austrian football is no stranger to Israeli football. The current and previous team coach came from Austria, Austrian teams met Israel and the team also played, as we all remember for good and especially for bad, against Austria several times in the past, before another game tonight (Saturday, 21:45) against them. The story of Austrian football, both historical and especially current, goes through Franco Fuda, who ignites the imagination in the country.
The coach of the Austrian national team was originally German. He played for the West German national team and various teams in German football, Kaiserslautern and Bayer Leverkusen. Quite a few of the prominent coaches in the football world today, such as Jürgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel and Hanzi Flick, grew up on German football and the constant pressure, something reminiscent of Fuda’s Austria.
Like Klopp and Tuchel, Fuda was also a defensive player in the German league. He played for Franz Beckenbauer in the West German team and trained with other great coaches from that period, but the most significant change for him came in 1997, when he was 33 and moved to the Austrian Storm Graz. Fuda fell in love with the place and spent the last years of his professional career there.
Coaching career: The years at Storm Graz and the connection to Gili Vermouth
After Poda retired from active play he began working as a coach on the Sturm Graz children’s teams and later as an assistant coach. In 2002/03 he accepted the position of coach of Graz, at the end of a season in which she finished in second place but advanced to the Champions League qualifiers following the disqualification of the then champion, Tyrol Eisenbrook, who was automatically relegated to the sub-league.
The same campaign in the Champions League is remembered by every Israeli football fan and especially by Maccabi Haifa fans. Fuda’s Graz went straight up to the third and final qualifying round (then), losing 2: 0 to Yitzhak Shom’s Greens in a game held in Sofia. The rematch in Austria is remembered as a mythological game in the shadow of the dismissal of Ivginia Yakubu, but in the end Haifa managed to go up with 3: 5 at the end of the two games and reach, for the first time in its history, the home stage of the Champions League.
The continuation of the season was not encouraging for Fuda and Graz who failed to pass the Israeli champion they hosted in Bulgaria. At Graz they failed to maintain a good and consistent level of football and finished in sixth place only, which led to Fuda not continuing with the team but being transferred to the club’s sub-team.
After a few years in Graz’s small team he moved back to the senior, who lost his place as one of the greats in Austria, and with the help of offensive football managed to gradually rise with it to the Austrian championship in 2011, first championship after 12 years and last to date. He then moved to the team with which he was identified as a player, Kaiserslautern.
At Kaiserslautern, he coached two Israeli players, Itai Schechter and Gili Vermot, who came from Hapoel Tel Aviv. He came to the team with a clear goal, league promotion back to the Bundesliga. The team failed to do so and was defeated against Hoffenheim on probation. He did coach for a short time Gili Vermouth, But the contact complimented the coach in the past: “He really liked me and let me play free, under the striker. I started the season with them, started with three games and returned to Israel. He is a thorough and good coach who plays offensively.”
After that unsuccessful season in the second division in Germany he took a year off from training and returned to the quarry of his quarry, Sturm Graz and Austrian football. After 3 years with relative success in the league in which a number of Israeli strikers broke out, the next step seems natural – Fuda has been appointed coach of the Austrian national team.
“The mission is complete, now we want more”
Although Austria is remembered by all of us from that 5: 0 and from the heartbreaking goal of Andreas Herzog, it is a small team of European size. The team has twice advanced to the World Cup since 1986 and has not passed the home stage and first advanced to the Euros when it hosted it, in 2008. Both then and in 2016, in which it played in the European Championship, Austria was eliminated in the home stage without leaving a significant mark.
Into this vacuum enters Poda, a coach who used to give offensive freedom to his players. Fuda inherited a team that showed signs of improvement and a generation of players raised by none other than Willy Rotensteiner, the then sporting director of Austria and the coach of the Israeli team today.
It seems at the time that the Austrians advanced to the European Championships only thanks to the increase of the format to 24 teams. We will never have a way of knowing if this is true or not, but in the last Euro qualifying campaign the team won and won a ticket from the Israeli home, when they lose 4: 2 to Sami Ofer following a three-pointer by Zehavi, but win 1: 3 at home.
The Austrians eventually climbed to the Euros from second place behind Poland and reached a home that is considered to be the most open on the eve of the competition, with Northern Macedonia, the Netherlands and Ukraine. Quite a few commentators have estimated that the Netherlands and Ukraine will be the two teams that will eventually rise while the Austrians hope for the poor results of the other teams playing in the Euros and try to rise from third place.
There is quite a bit of talent in the Austrian team, from David Alaba to Christophe Baumgartner, Marcel Svitzer and Marco Arantovic, but it seems less talented compared to the powerful Netherlands of Memphis DePay and Georginio Vinaldom or Ukraine threatening with Andrei Shevchenko on the lines. Despite this, the Austrians came to play football and not to wait for the mistakes of the rivals.
The team did what was expected of them when they held the ball and played an offensive game against Northern Macedonia, a game that ended in 1: 3 for the Austrians. They managed to initiate and dictate the pace of the game even against a team better than them by a large margin, the Netherlands, when the Austrians did lose 2: 0 but were dangerous and active throughout the game. In the next game the story was similar – they managed to create situations and risk the Ukrainian goal all the way to a 0: 1 victory over the team that played in the Euro quarterfinals.
The Austrians advanced for the first time in their history to the quarterfinals where they met one of the favorites to win and the one who in the end was indeed crowned European champion, Italy. The approach of redeemer Before the game reflects, pretty much, his entire coaching philosophy: “Our mission is complete,” he said, “but now we want more.”
Although the Austrians were eliminated against the Italians, they gave them a tough fight and were one of the only two teams, alongside England (who hosted the game between them), to reach extra time against the regional. Even after falling behind 2: 0 in extra time, the Austrians did not give up and scored a goal in the 114th minute, in a game in which they tried to do the impossible and were very close to the best team in Europe and possibly in the world.
The method: pressure and freedom for the stars
Fuda has made Austria a team that has attracted quite a few neutral football fans and may do so in the upcoming World Cup, if it does manage to advance in the end (and it will probably depend on the playoffs, given Denmark’s dominance at home).
Fuda’s Austria plays more aggressive and stressful football, and this stood out in both the Euros and the qualifiers. The Austrians had a hard time mobilizing this intensity against Moldova, in a game they won only 0: 2, but in the same game their best player, Alaba, did not play. Fuda hinted before the game that he is expected to start in the squad against the Israelis.
Alaba, unsurprisingly, is the most important player on the team. The Austrian defender / brake / contact is one of the most diverse players in the world and the team plays in a variety of different roles, when he sometimes changes roles during the game and thus utilizes this ability in the best way. Sometimes it opens in the center of the link, sometimes in the wing and sometimes as a brake.
Alaba’s ability to create situations can make it very difficult for the Israeli team and its three-brake system, as he can move from the wing to the center and thus surprise slower defenses. This is in line with the intensity of Austria, which was expressed in late goals in the Euros and can be very dangerous against our team as well.
The intensity of the entire Austrian team goes great with one of Alaba’s best skills, producing the right action in a fast time. There are enough target players around him, from Marko Arentovic through Baumgartner to the wonderful Marcel Savitzer, and they have shown the ability to maintain a high intensity. Arentovic, who has struggled to be consistent in the various teams, thrives on the team thanks to his freedom of attack and little commitment on defense. A great national team coach manages to maximize the method in the player material on which he depends and Fuda, unequivocally, did so in the last Euro.
The game against Moldova can be interpreted in two ways as a forecast for Israel. On the one hand Austria was not at its best and did not crush the team, on the other hand the level of intensity against Moldova, compared to the intensity against a direct opponent, is expected to be completely different. The Austrians still remember Zehavi’s hat-trick and the loss to Sami Ofer. When you add to that the motivator that came from German football and the team success from the last Euro, you realize that the task facing the blue-and-whites is not simple at all.