Austria are back in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship for first time since 2010 and coach Andreas Heraf, a former international and winner of three league titles with SK Rapid Wien, spoke to UEFA.com about his expectations now.
UEFA.com: How do you rate the accomplishment of having qualified for the finals after a four-year absence?
Andreas Heraf: Only the very best teams make it to the European Championship. It is very special for us. We get to have an outstanding experience because we will be part of the [matchday one] game against Hungary and I'm sure there will be a huge crowd.
UEFA.com: Which qualities have got your team this far?
Heraf: We live off our organisation, team spirit and the good finishing qualities of our attack. In terms of footballing qualities there are probably some teams who are superior to us, but we absolutely deserve to be at the finals. However, we are certainly not favourites for the title. Our minimal goal is to qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Of course we'd like to get into the semi-finals, but it will be very tough.
UEFA.com: Sinan Bytyqi and Florian Grillitsch each scored five goals in qualifying; could they make the difference in Hungary?
Heraf: Grillitsch had some ups and downs over the past few years, although he did have that match [against Romania] which he scored four goals and really stepped up. Bytyqi is very consistent in attack, he is our most important player.
UEFA.com: What do you know about your opponents Hungary, Portugal and Israel?
Heraf: Hungary's advantage is that they've been able to prepare for a long time. I think they played nine matches during the spring. Until now I have focused mostly on them. I will have some time preparing for the matches against Israel and Portugal once I am at the tournament. Israel picked up nine points during the elite round, they are a very strong side. They play quick and aggressive football, which makes them tough to grasp. Portugal are like you would expect; they have highly skilled technical players and to me they are huge favourites to win the group.
It's difficult to properly place Hungary because they didn't take part in qualification. But I know they are very strong. It's a robust team with a lot of tall players, and they have home advantage which gives them extra motivation. But they also have a bit of pressure, which is something that young players may struggle to deal with.
UEFA.com: You've been in charge for two years; what's changed in that time?
Heraf: The squad hasn't changed much. After failing to qualify for the elite round of the European U17 Championship I did some extensive analysis. We were a bit uninspired and couldn't deliver results. Tactically we needed to make some changes. The lads just wanted to play football and have a go, which I tried to contain a little bit. We needed to improve our organisation and it's worked well. The results are now there and this is why the team has belief in itself.
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