Having dramatically reached the finals, Austria coach Hermann Stadler hopes to build on progress at U17 and U20 level as his side head to Greece.
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Three-time semi-finalists Austria showed their mettle by reaching the UEFA European Under-19 Championship on the last matchday after a tense conclusion to their elite round campaign.
Having qualified for the finals, coach Hermann Stadler will now rely on team spirit in Greece after a productive summer for Austria at youth level. Ahead of their opener against France on 6 July, he tells UEFA.com that the experience gained by the U17 and U20 sides in recent tournaments will benefit his squad in Group A.
UEFA.com: How would you describe your squad?
Hermann Stadler: It is a side which has developed immensely in the past few years, especially when it comes to character – team spirit is crucial for us in Austria. Without it, our recent accomplishments – reaching the UEFA European Under-17 Championship [in Bulgaria], the FIFA U-20 World Cup [in New Zealand] and this tournament – would not have been possible. Our mental strength is enormous. Hopefully, this will be the ace up our sleeve.
UEFA.com: Who are the key players in your team?
Stadler: I don't want to highlight a specific player; It would be unfair to the others. We win and lose together as a team – players as well as staff.
UEFA.com: What are your first impressions of Group A opponents France, Greece and Ukraine?
Stadler: It's a very interesting and even group. Maybe there is a little advantage for France. They are a tough side and have almost no weaknesses. Greece have the advantage of being able to handle the high temperatures and can rely on home support. However, [because they are the hosts] they have not played any competitive matches – that can be a disadvantage. Ukraine have been consistent over the years, they are a very physical side.
UEFA.com: Are you happy to have avoided Germany, the Netherlands, Russia and Spain?
Stadler: There are no easy groups. All eight teams are very strong and we shouldn't label one group as tougher than the other. We are here to give it our best. When the competition starts, we will see whether these early assessments were right or not.
UEFA.com: How beneficial is it to experience international competitions at such a young age?
Stadler: Extremely important. We learned a lot since the U17 finals, especially how to conduct yourself during the competition. Such a tournament is not made up of three group stages games, but of six halves. So, it is quite possible that the final 45 minutes can be decisive. We have come to understand this, and that is our strength.
UEFA.com: What are your aims for the finals?
Stadler: It is our goal to be worthy representatives of Austria. We are taking it one game at a time, and will always [endeavour to] be close to reaching our performance limit. Then we will see what we achieve.
UEFA.com: It has been an exciting summer for Austrian football at youth level. What does it tell you about the development of the game back home?
Stadler: It's a sign that we're doing things right. It makes us very proud to see the U17s, U19s and U20s travel around the world to compete against the best.
UEFA.com: Austria reached the finals thanks to a late goal. Did that show you how your side handled pressure?
Stadler: It was tough and exciting at the same time – we had our share of luck to squeeze through. However, we progressed. We'll take it one match at a time, do our best, and then we'll see how our group unfolds.