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Birthday boy Koller won't let 'improved' Ireland spoil the party

The Austria manager knows tomorrow’s evening meeting in Vienna is a must-win.

Austria's Swiss manager Marcel Koller.
Austria's Swiss manager Marcel Koller.
Image: Ronald Zak

Ben Blake reports from the Ernst-Happel Stadium in Vienna

MARCEL KOLLER TURNS 56 today and would gladly take three points against Ireland as the perfect present from his players.

The former Swiss midfielder, who spent his entire playing career at Grasshoppers, is five years into his current job but finds himself under a slight bit of pressure after suffering defeat to Serbia last month.

It’s a must-win game for the home side and victory at the Ernst-Happel Stadium tomorrow evening (5pm Irish time) would put Austria level with the Boys in Green on seven points after four matches but Koller predicts there will be very little between the teams.

“We want to win and we’re going to do everything we can to win this game,” Koller said at today’s pre-match press conference. “The stadium will be sold out so we have to perform for our fans but I think it’s going to be a really close game.

“Ireland have had a good start in the qualifiers and the last time we played it was tight.”

That last meeting, back in September 2013, saw David Alaba’s late winner effectively end Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in what turned out to be Giovanni Trapattoni’s last final game in charge.

And while Koller believes this current group are a stronger team, he feels the list of absentees that includes Shane Long, Daryl Murphy, Stephen Ward and James McCarthy could be telling.

They have improved and got better, but on the other end, three or four players are missing and most of them are regulars in the team,” he added.

“For both teams, it’s a very important game.

“Those players (those injured) are familiar to me and they are important players for Ireland but we have to focus on ourselves.

“An hour before the game starts, we will know exactly who is playing and we can prepare for that as well. We must have the right mentality.”

Soccer WCup 2018 Serbia Austria Austria captain Julian Baumgartlinger. Source: Darko Vojinovic

Austrian captain Julian Baumgartlinger is set to start alongside Alaba in midfield and the Bayer Leverkusen man is eager to move on from the disappointment of Euro 2016 — when they exited the tournament with one point from three matches.

“We have analysed what went wrong but that is in the past and what’s important is right now,” Baumgartlinger said. “The beginning of the qualification round was quite good but then we lost some games and we weren’t as successful as we want to be.

“We have to change a few things and work hard to get better results. Euro 2016 is in the past so it’s not important anymore.”

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Ben Blake

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