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Austria's coach Dominik Thalhammer may have considered just being in the UEFA Women's EURO 2013 play-offs "sensational" – but that does not mean they are not going all out for victory in the first leg against Russia in St Polten on Sunday.
Russia beat Scotland in the play-offs four years ago to qualify for their third Women's EURO, whereas Austria have never made even this stage before – beating the Czech Republic to second place in Group 7, which they concluded by defeating first-placed Denmark 3-1. Still, with striker Nina Burger and rising talents Laura Feiersinger and Viktoria Schnaderbeck in his squad, Thalhammer – who succeeded the late Ernst Weber last year – can take an upbeat stance.
"The fact we were even in the draw in Nyon is sensational, so everything from now on is a bonus," he said. "The Russians have no standout players, however the whole team is at the same high level.
"The EURO is our goal, that would be a huge boost for our women's football. But we also know that we have a very young team. We have a team that can make it in four years."
Sergei Lavrentyev, appointed as Russia's new coach last week following the departure of Farid Benstiti for Paris Saint-Germain FC, has included 20-year-old striker Anna Cholovyaga and fellow young forward Nelli Korovkina as cover for experienced attackers Olesya Kurochkina, Ekaterina Sochneva and Russia's six-goal top scorer in Group 1 qualification, Natalia Shlyapina.
"We all knew Lavrentyev previously, as he worked with ShVSM-Izmaylovo Moskva, and he is a high-class specialist," goalkeeper Elvira Todua told UEFA.com, before turning her attention to Austria. "We played them many times in qualification and always won but I have to admit that they have improved quite a lot. They are good in attack and use pressing quite a bit. All their players are fast and powerful but we know their weak points and will try to use them to our advantage."
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