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Heraf plots another Austrian surprise

Having hailed his side's qualification as "a tremendous success, really unbelievable", Austria coach Andreas Heraf is aiming to upset the odds again at the U19 finals in France.

Austria coach Andreas Heraf
Austria coach Andreas Heraf ©Getty Images

Having guided Austria to the UEFA European Under-19 Championship for the first time since 2007 – when they hosted the event – Andreas Heraf is keen to make an impact in France, although he recognises being drawn alongside the hosts, 2009 runners-up England and the Netherlands in Group A will present a stiff challenge. However, as UEFA.com discovered, the 42-year-old is optimistic.

UEFA.com: How do you see the finals draw?

Andreas Heraf: For us it's not a difficult draw really. We're a small country and it's a great success for us to be in France for the tournament. But here we are and we want to do something special. Our first aim is to qualify for next year's [FIFA U-20] World Cup in Colombia; the second is to have a good tournament and maybe reach the semi-finals. Every other team are big favourites in this tournament – so they have the pressure. We have nothing to lose; our qualification was a big surprise and maybe we can make another one.

UEFA.com: You qualified with a dramatic 4-3 win against Denmark; how much momentum will that give the players?

Heraf: Of course it will give them a lot of confidence and inspiration. When I saw my players after that game, the celebrations and how happy they were, it was unbelievable. It was so hard for them after we lost the first game of the mini-tournament against Switzerland but then we came back and they've got a real good push for this tournament right now.

UEFA.com: Do you expect to be able to field the same team as in the elite round at the finals?

Heraf: I hope I'll get all my players, yes. In Austria the league season starts at the same time at this tournament so that makes things a little bit difficult for us. But, if I get all my players – and we have a really young team – then we have nothing to lose.

UEFA.com: How big an achievement is simply qualifying?

Heraf: It's a tremendous success for us. When you see the opponents we had in our elite round group – Switzerland, Serbia and Denmark – it's really unbelievable that we're here. Now we are here we want to do the best we can.

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