As a fan of the Austria national football team, I went into the 2010 World Cup qualifier last Saturday versus Serbia with the utmost confidence.
I was confident Austria might come close to scoring a goal at least once. I was confident Austria would field 11 players at the start of the match.
Actually, when Stefan Maierhofer outran two Serbian defenders but shot wide attempting to beat goalkeeper Valdimir Stojkovic at the beginning of the game, I had a feeling Austria might pull off the upset.
That feeling lasted about four minutes.
Austrian goalkeeper Michael Gspurning butchered a clearing pass and then fouled Danko Lazovic in the box for a penalty. Seconds later, Nenad Milijas sent the kick into the right corner of the net, and Serbia took the 1-0 lead.
Thank goodness there are only 45 minutes in a half because that meant I only had to watch 83 minutes of agonizing futility as Austria attempted to score the equalizer but never did.
Austria is stuck in fourth place in Group 7 with only seven points after six matches.
Austria is not officially eliminated yet, but they would most likely have to defeat Lithuania, France, the Faroe Islands, and Romania just to make it into second place.
Courtney Lee will make a layup for the Orlando Magic before that happens.
Unless hell freezes over, Austria will have failed to qualify for the last three World Cups. At least I can look back fondly at the glory years of Austrian football.
First, I have to find my sports almanac because Austria's greatest achievements occurred in the 30's and 50's, and I wasn't born yet. I cannot find any highlight DVDs from those years either.
In 1931, Austria was the first European team to defeat Scotland. Austria finished fourth in the 1934 FIFA World Cup after losing 1-0 to Italy in the semifinals and 3-2 to Germany in the third place game.
Austria qualified for the 1938 World Cup, but Nazi Germany caused a slight problem for the team when they annexed Austria and therefore eliminated the Austria Football Association.
Austria was again separated from Germany after World War II. Austria's greatest success occurred in 1954 when Austria finished third in the World Cup. Austria lost 6-1 to Germany in the semifinal but then defeated defending champion Uruguay 3-1.
Austria did quality for both the 1978 and 1982 World Cups but was eliminated each time in the second round group stage.
Luckily for me, my understanding of football and my devotion to Austria corresponded directly with the downfall of the national team.
I often think about all the great players that played for Austria in the last 25 years. There was Toni Polster, Andreas Herzog, what's his name, and that other guy.
The team that played in the 1998 World Cup will be remembered for scoring in stoppage time in all three games that they participated in.
Unfortunately, I have clear memories of most of the recent embarrassments.
In 1992, Austria lost 1-0 to the Faroe Islands during the qualifying phase of the European Championship. It was probably Austria's worst lost ever since the game was played in Landskrona, Sweden because the Faroe Islands had no grass fields to play on. In 1999, Austria lost 9-0 to Spain and 5-0 to Israel.
Lately, even a positive event turns into a negative.
Austria qualified automatically for the 2008 European Championship since they were co-hosting with Switzerland. However, 10,000 Austrians signed a petition demanding Austria withdraw from the tournament so they wouldn't be an embarrassment to football. Austria did lose 1-0 twice in the first round but tied Poland 1-1.
Despite the current struggles, the team does have talented scorers in Erwin Hofer, Marc Janko, and Stefan Maierhofer. Just wait until qualifying for 2014 starts up. Experts will be calling Austria's national team the "Wunderteam" again.
The Bible says "the meek shall inherit the earth." Hopefully they will accomplish that by the next World Cup.
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