Austria's disappointing Euro 2016 campaign comes to abrupt end
Austria have been eliminated from Euro 2016. Here's an assessment of their disappointing campaign in France, and where the national team goes from here.
After two disappointing performances against Hungary and Portugal, the deciding match against Iceland, especially the second half, was definitely the highlight of the competition. It was nerve-wracking, heart rates went up and fans felt like little children again. The team fought and gave everything it had. Even though Austria had a poor tournament overall, the second half against Iceland is something they can be proud of.
In these 45 minutes they showed a lot of effort and team play, which reminded fans of their excellent performances during qualifying, especially Julian Baumgartlinger's attitude and impressive displays. It's too bad they couldn't score a second goal against Iceland when the score was level at 1-1 to reach the last 16.
The final whistle against Hungary. The team had high expectations and the hope was to start the tournament in top gear. A win would have been very important, but nearly everything went wrong. The Hungarians were more focused and played a lot smarter -- qualities that Austria usually possesses -- but the team were beaten without even having a chance on the day. The mood after the match was depressing.
Even though Austria had a dreadful Euro 2016, there's still some positives. The team's shortcomings are now on full display and in Marcel Koller, Austria have a manager who can change these things and hopefully create a team that can qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Julian Baumgartlinger was outstanding. He had an excellent season at Mainz, in turn prompting a move to Bayer Leverkusen, and did well in friendly matches leading up to Euro 2016 as well.
He simply didn't stop running. He worked twice as hard as every other player and took responsibilities in the defence and attack. His buildup play was by far the best and most secure on the team, and his never-give-up attitude and tackling abilities were equally impressive. He wasn't scared, nor was he nervous. He just wanted to win. He has always had a major role in Koller's team, but Austria fans will appreciate him even more after this tournament. Under Roger Schmidt's guidance at Leverkusen, he could become Austria's most important player.
In the last couple of years, Koller has built up a seasoned team of excellent players. He has believed in them and they have paid him back with very good performances.
But while these players seemed to be in good spirits in France, they were struggling for form. And instead of giving new players like Florian Grillitsch and Kevin Wimmer a try, Koller opted for out-of-form footballers in Martin Harnik and Martin Hinteregger, highlighting his preference for a settled and seasoned starting XI.
Even though there were some additions to his squad, Koller did not make many changes to his starting XI. Alessandro Schopf is a fine example; he showed up in the friendlies against Malta and was one of the team's best players against Iceland beyond scoring his country's lone Euro goal, and yet never managed to make the starting lineup.
Koller's squad could change now that the tournament is over -- changes that should have arguably been made months ago.