Coach Marcel Koller, given a lukewarm reception when he was appointed in 2011, has received most of the credit for lifting Austria from 70th in the world to 10th.
The Swiss has given them a new tactical identity and has also proved a master at getting the most out of his men, including the temperamental Marko Arnautovic.
He has brought remarkable stability, fielding a 4-2-3-1 system, flexible enough to become 4-3-3.
David Alaba is the star name but the whole midfield deserves praise, with the more defence-minded Julian Baumgartlinger and the dynamic Zlatko Junuzovic equally important.
They may struggle if key players get injured.
Fifa ranking: 10
Manager: Marcel Koller
Squad - Goalkeepers: Robert Almer, Heinz Lindner, Ramazan Ozcan. Defenders: Aleksandar Dragovic, Christian Fuchs, Gyorgy Garics, Martin Hinteregger, Florian Klein, Sebastian Prodl, Markus Suttner, Kevin Wimmer. Midfielders: David Alaba, Marko Arnautovic, Julian Baumgartlinger, Martin Harnik , Stefan Ilsanker, Jakob Jantscher, Zlatko Junuzovic, Marcel Sabitzer , Alessandro Schopf. Strikers: Lukas Hinterseer, Rubin Okotie, Marc Janko.
Key player: David Alaba. The midfielder is only 23, yet he seems to have been around for ages, having made his debuts for both Bayern Munich and Austria at 17. A great passer, good tackler and free-kick specialist, he is already team captain, with 44 appearances and 11 goals. For Austria, he plays left of the midfield, in front of the defence, where he can orchestrate the team with a style and authority which belie his youth.