Austria announces provisional squad for Euro 2008
24 April 2008
VIENNA – Austria coach Josef Hickersberger looked to combine young talent and experience when he announced his provisional 31-man squad for the upcoming Euro 2008 tournament Thursday, with the surprise nomination that of veteran midfielder Ivica Vastic.
"I have tried to nominate not Austria’s best players, but to nominate those who are important for the Euro," Hickersberger said.
Vastic’s nomination was not expected as Hickersberger had in the past stressed that he would instead focus on the younger generation of players.
An experienced player like the 38-year-old Vastic was needed as a troubleshooter in case of "eventualities" such as an injury to team captain Andreas Ivanschitz, he explained.
"We did not look too good when we played without Ivanschitz," Hickersberger said, reaffirming his huge faith in Austria’s captain, so a workable back-up for the Euro had to be found.
"I have to prepare for all eventualities," he said.
The squad, which will be whittled down to 23 players by 28 May, includes three new faces: goalkeeper Christian Gratzei, forward Stefan Maierhofer and midfielder Umit Korkmaz.
Not included is Paul Scharner, who plays for the English Premier League side Wigan Athletic. The defender retired from the national squad in 2006 after criticising the Austrian football federation.
"There may be some small doubt with one or two players, but we believe those are the right players for the team, the ones we need now," Hickersberger said.
The final decision on the squad make-up will be made in the next weeks, assistant coach Andreas Herzog said. "There are still positions where not everything is decided yet."
The chance to participate in a tournament in the home country would serve as additional motivation, Herzog said. "I am confident that with the euphoria backing us we can surpass ourselves."
Austria and Switzerland are co-hosting the tournament which runs from June 7 to 29.
The provisional squad is:
Goalkeepers: Christian Gratzei (Sturm Graz), Alexander Manninger (AC Siena), Juergen Macho (AEK Athen/Greece), Helge Payer (Rapid Vienna)
Defenders: Andreas Dober (Rapid Vienna), Gyoergy Garics (SSC Napoli/Italy), Ronald Gercaliu (Austria Vienna), Martin Hiden (Austria Kaernten), Andreas Ibertsberger (1899 Hoffenheim/Germany), Markus Katzer (Rapid Vienna), Juergen Patocka (Rapid Vienna), Emanuel Pogatetz (Middlesbrough/England), Sebastian Proedl (Sturm Graz), Franz Schiemer (Austria Vienna) and Martin Stranzl (Spartak Moscow/Russia)
Midfielders: Rene Aufhauser (Red Bull Salzburg), Christian Fuchs (SV Mattersburg), Martin Harnik (Werder Bremen/Germany), Andreas Ivanschitz (Panathinaikos Athens/Greece), Umit Korkmaz (Rapid Vienna), Christoph Leitgeb (Red Bull Salzburg), Juergen Saeumel (Sturm Graz), Joachim Standfest (Austria Vienna), Ivica Vastic (LASK Linz) and Markus Weissenberger (Eintracht Frankfurt/Germany)
Forwards: Erwin Hoffer (Rapid Vienna), Marc Janko (Red Bull Salzburg), Roman Kienast (Ham-Kam/Norway), Sanel Kuljic (Austria Vienna), Roland Linz (SC Braga/Portugal) and Stefan Maierhofer (SK Rapid Vienna)
[dpa / Expatica]