It is nine years since Austria last appeared in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship – but after earning a trip across the border to Slovakia, coach Hermann Stadler is looking forward to facing some familiar opponents.
Austria topped an elite round mini-tournament on home soil last month to end a wait to qualify going back to 2004. First up in Dubnica nad Vahom on 5 May will be the hosts Slovakia before further Group A fixtures against Sweden and another of their neighbours, Switzerland.
Omens are decent, as they beat Slovakia 1-0 in a friendly tournament in August and held Switzerland 1-1 in the UEFA qualifying round two months later. Stadler has high hopes, at least of finishing third in the group and qualifying for the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
UEFA.com: What do you think of your group?
Hermann Stadler: I think it is a very even group, there are chances for all four nations to progress. It is nice to play the hosts Slovakia first, in a great stadium with a lot of spectators. That is very motivating for both teams. I think form on the day will be decisive. But as I said every nation has a chance, and in the end the best two teams will progress from this group.
UEFA.com: Is it an advantage or disadvantage to play the hosts first?
Stadler: I wouldn't say it's an advantage, because it's always difficult to play the hosts in the first match, but the hosts are under pressure as well, needing to win their first match. So it's difficult to say if it's an advantage or a disadvantage. I think the group is very even, and we are looking forward to the opening match very much. We in the Austrian side hope that we are in the top two on 11 May.
UEFA.com: You also play Switzerland again ...
Stadler: Yes indeed, again against Switzerland. Funnily enough we have played against Slovakia and against Switzerland, and both teams are with us again in the same group. So we know our opponents except for Sweden. It might be an advantage for the teams as they know each other already.
UEFA.com: What is your objective?
Stadler: One objective is to be automatically qualified for the World Cup. That would be a dream for Austrian football.
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