Austria not going along for the ride

Austria's Zlatko Junuzovic (left) earns a penalty after he is fouled by Sweden's Kim Kallstrom during their Euro 2016 Group G qualifier. Austria won the game, played in Stockholm on Tuesday, 4-1.
Austria's Zlatko Junuzovic (left) earns a penalty after he is fouled by Sweden's Kim Kallstrom during their Euro 2016 Group G qualifier. Austria won the game, played in Stockholm on Tuesday, 4-1.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

STOCKHOLM • Austria have vowed to make an impact at next year's European Championship after earning a berth in the tournament for the first time.

Austria qualified automatically as co-hosts with Switzerland at Euro 2008, but sealed their passage to France on merit with a 4-1 victory over Sweden on Tuesday.

"It's a big thing for us but our focus is not just to take part," said midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger. "We want to influence the championship in France next June."

The result in Stockholm meant Austria, with 22 points from eight games, topped Group G with two qualifying matches to spare.

The visitors swarmed forward whenever they had the chance, overwhelming the Swedes with their quick passing to hand coach Erik Hamren's men their heaviest defeat at the Friends Arena.

Martin Harnik netted a goal in each half, Bayern Munich's David Alaba chipped in a first-half penalty and Marc Janko also got on the scoresheet. Zlatan Ibrahimovic grabbed a late consolation for Sweden.

Waving flags and sporting T-shirts saying "France, we're coming", the Austrian players ran to celebrate with the thousands of travelling fans, shaking hands and singing long after the final whistle.

"We have great quality in the team. Every player in the 23-man roster is developing every week, every year," added Baumgartlinger, who plays his club football in Germany's top flight with Mainz 05. "We have a lot of players playing in good leagues. Our tactics are modern and not easy to play against. We're difficult opponents."

Sweden's defeat was their first at home in 14 European Championship qualifiers. They slipped to third position on 12 points, two behind Russia, and now face the prospect of a play-off match to reach the Finals.

"We still have a chance to qualify... but right now it feels tough," said Hamren.

After Sweden also went down 0-1 to Russia in their previous game, captain Ibrahimovic was more cutting in his analysis.

"We were outplayed," he said. "They were better than us, the Russians too."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2015, with the headline 'Austria not going along for the ride'. Print Edition | Subscribe