It is 30 years since Austria recorded their sole competitive victory against West and the unified Germany. Much has been made of that triumph in Cordoba at the 1978 World Cup finals – a game in which Austrian coach Josef Hickersberger played – in the build-up to tonight’s game, but Hickersberger has been playing down the significance of that match.
“Too much has been said about Cordoba. For me, history is repeating itself,” he said. “In 1989, we played the German Democratic Republic in Vienna in a decisive qualifier for the 1990 World Cup and won [3-0]. The names are different now, but we’re looking forward to the match.”
Austria must win tonight or face elimination from their own tournament. With the Austrians having lost 3-0 to Germany in February, that task won’t be easy but Hickersberger is full of confidence.
“We’re in excellent shape,” he said. “We’re better than we were in February and we have a decent chance. This is the biggest match of my life and it will be the biggest match of all time if we win.
“Germany weren’t that good against Croatia and they have problems. One or two players are injured, they’re not playing that well and we have home advantage. I’d put our chances at 40 per cent – people might think I’m pessimistic but that’s quite good. The important thing is we have a chance and if you’d told me that a year ago I’d have been more than grateful.”
Hickersberger has no injury worries, but Martin Hiden is expected to replace the suspended Sebastian Proedl at the heart of the Austrian defence.
Germany coach Joachim Low, who was at a loss to explain his side’s poor display in their previous game against Croatia, has promised a better performance from his players.
“I promise you the team will play differently,” he said. “Thirty million people will be watching in Germany and we have to win for them and for our nation. The match against Croatia is a thing of the past. We’ll have to push to the limit because Austria have improved in the last few weeks and months. They’re a team of fighters but we will go the extra mile.”
Low is confident his side will deliver tonight, adding: “A little pressure doesn’t hurt – my team will deal with that. If we play well, there’s no need to be afraid of our opponents. We’ll play our game, impose our style and show what we can do.”
Germany have been boosted with the news that Lukas Podolski and Philipp Lahm will be fit to start. However, Marcell Jansen (shoulder) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (suspension) will miss a game Germany cannot afford to lose. Podolski, scorer of all three of Germany’s goals so far, is expected to partner Miroslav Klose, with Mario Gomez tipped to lose his place after two disappointing displays. Clemens Fritz is expected drop back from midfield to right-back to cover the absence of Jansen, with Lahm switching to the left.