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Austria aiming for second Sweden double

Austria beat Sweden twice en route to the 1998 FIFA World Cup and, having felled the Blågult earlier in Group C, know another win on Friday will aid their push for a runners-up slot.

Julian Baumgartlinger and Zlatko Junuzovic (right) celebrate victory against Sweden in June
Julian Baumgartlinger and Zlatko Junuzovic (right) celebrate victory against Sweden in June ©AFP/Getty Images

When Austria play Sweden in Solna on Friday, the Alpine nation will look to repeat an achievement of 16 years ago that helped them reach their last FIFA World Cup finals.

Two Andreas Herzog goals secured a pair of 1-0 victories over the Blågult, the second of them in September 1997, which were pivotal for Herbert Prohaska's side as they qualified for the following summer's global gathering in France.

Austria also triumphed 2-1 against Sweden at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion in June courtesy of a David Alaba penalty and Marc Janko's strike six minutes later – yet they currently sit three points behind the second-placed Scandinavians in Group C, albeit with a better goal difference. However, a win at the Friends Arena, followed by success on Tuesday in the Faroe Islands, would ensure the Austrians finished second in the section.

"We have to take a positive approach and show determination," said midfielder cum defender Alaba. "We all know it won't be easy and if we use the victory in Vienna as an indicator, we will need to increase our efforts. However, this match could certainly open the door for us."

If Alaba, 21, has become a key performer for national coach Marcel Koller, Austria's hopes do not depend solely upon the FC Bayern München left-back. "This generation of players is very talented," said Herzog, now assistant to United States coach Jürgen Klinsmann. "It will be crucial to bring this talent to the table [against Sweden]."

Koller has factored the Torshavn encounter with the Faroe Islands into his thinking, even though his immediate focus is on Sweden, who finish their campaign at home to table-topping Germany. "For now we are considering how many risks we want to take in Solna," he said. "It will depend on developments during the match. Of course we want to win, but football isn't a bowl of cherries."