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Germany welcomes Polsters of tomorrow

Published: Tuesday 17 August 2010, 14.29CET
Given the relative strengths of the two Bundesligas, the rapidly increasing number of young Austrian players building reputations in Germany can only be good news for the Alpine nation.
by Johannes Sturm
from Vienna
Germany welcomes Polsters of tomorrow
Erwin Hoffer got off to a flying start at Kaiserslautern ©AFP
Published: Tuesday 17 August 2010, 14.29CET

Germany welcomes Polsters of tomorrow

Given the relative strengths of the two Bundesligas, the rapidly increasing number of young Austrian players building reputations in Germany can only be good news for the Alpine nation.

Some debut. Brought on 74 minutes into Friday's German Cup first round game at VfL Osnabrück, the 1. FC Kaiserslautern striker made his mark in extra-time, scoring twice to give the Bundesliga side a 3-2 win.

It was a great start for the 23-year-old once described by former Austria coach Josef Hickersberger as being so fast that he had "turbines instead of thighs", but it is no longer a great surprise to see Austrian talent flourishing in Germany. When the new Bundesliga season starts on Friday, 15 Austrian players will be ready for action.

Austrians are now the third largest group of foreign players in Germany's top division after Brazilians and Croatians. Of those 15 players, 11 are aged between 18 and 24. SV Werder Bremen defender Sebastian Prödl confirmed: "It is certainly a good sign for Austrian football, especially the young players coming through the ranks."

Aside from the current crop, only 15 other Austrian players had played in their northern neighbours' top division in the previous ten years, with none amassing more than 20 league appearances. That was a substantial comedown, given that the 1980s and 1990s had seen the likes of Andreas Herzog, Toni Polster, Wolfgang Feiersinger and Franz Wohlfahrt shine in Germany.

The current upsurge in fortunes owes much to the Austrian Football Association (ÖFB) and its renewed focus on young talent. The 23-year-old striker Rubin Okotie is a notable one to watch as he embarks on his first season at 1. FC Nürnberg, who signed him following an injury-ravaged campaign at FK Austria Wien.

At 27, Hannover 96 defender Emanuel Pogatetz is one of the more experienced Austrian stars in the Bundesliga, but – newly arrived from Middlesbrough FC – he is excited to have so many countrymen to play against. "There will be the odd Austrian duel in the German Bundesliga," he smiled "It is a very positive thing."

Winger Ümit Korkmaz, whose two years at Eintracht Frankfurt has been blighted by no fewer than five broken bones, is aware that the move north has had a tendency in the past to make Austrian players put themselves under "unnecessary pressure", but there is no sign that the young stars of today lack the requisite self-belief.

Two in particular are regarded as Polsters or Herzogs of the future; Bremen forward Marko Arnautović and FC Bayern München's 18-year-old midfielder David Alaba. Both have shown immense promise, but with youth and amateur sides in Germany still finding rich pickings among the pool of Austrian talent, the red-and-white wave is yet to reach its peak.

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It is certainly a good sign for Austrian football, especially the young players coming through the ranks
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There will be the odd Austrian duel in the German Bundesliga
Emanuel Pogatetz
Last updated: 06/12/12 0.05CET

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