Austria turned on the style and kept their slim UEFA EURO 2004™ hopes alive with a 5-0 victory over Belarus in their Group 3 encounter in Innsbruck. A defeat to Moldova on Saturday had all but ended Austria's chances of catching the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, but this performance suggested anything but.
The hosts started the game a little nervously but were eventually settled by René Aufhauser's opener on 32 minutes. "We were a little nervous in the first 20 minutes but then René got the goal and we loosened up a bit and found it easier to play our game," said Mario Haas after the game. "And then we got to 2-0 which made everything all the easier."
It was Haas himself who initiated the second-half rout. The SK Sturm Graz striker scored only two minutes into the second half, as Austria began to play with increasing confidence. Midfield player Roland Kirchler added the third five minutes later to send the 8,100 home supporters into rapture.
It only got better for Austria coach Hans Krankl as young striker Roman Wallner added a fourth on 62 minutes, before Harald Cerny completed the scoring seven minutes later. More goals could have come in the final twenty minutes, as Belarus struggled to contain their rampant hosts. The result leaves them adrift at the bottom with Moldova, in competition to avoid the wooden spoon.
The victory moved the Austrians into third place in Group 5, but, with the Czech Republic beating Moldova 5-0, Krankl is ruling out any chance of qualification. "We are now where we belong and we proved that today," said Krankl. "But I am sorry, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic - forget it. Of course there is always room for a surprise, but I am a realist."