- Fifteen players from Germany's top two divisions included in squad.
- FC Bayern's Alaba the star man.
- Alaba: 'We're not favourites, but I have faith'
Austria's wealth of Bundesliga talent, led by FC Bayern München's David Alaba, will underpin their UEFA EURO 2016 bid.
Since taking charge in November 2011, Marcel Koller has overseen Austria's rise through the FIFA rankings, easing from a lowly 72nd to a promising tenth. That improvement, in addition to a sensational qualifying campaign in which they went unbeaten to end group winners, has left Austria fans hopeful Alaba and Co. can at least reach the knockout stages in France.
Placed in Group F along with Iceland, Hungary and Portugal, Koller will rely heavily on the 15-strong contingent of Germany-based talent to propel the nation into the Last 16. Those ranks are headed by Alaba, five-time Austria's Footballer of the Year and recently voted into the 2015/16 Team of the Season by @bundesliga_en/@bundesliga_de Twitter users. That latter honour came for his displays at left-back, but it is alongside Julian Baumgartlinger in defensive midfield that Alaba will play for his nation. The obstinate Baumgartlinger, who has just announced he will leave 1. FSV Mainz 05 to join Bayer 04 Leverkusen, provides the perfect foil for Alaba and helps form a solid platform on which Koller's men can rely.
With Alaba and Baumgartlinger shoring up the back four, the forward line will be enhanced by the creative promptings of Zlatko Junuzovic, the SV Werder Bremen playmaker who has become an irreplaceable part of Koller's strategy. "You can see very, very clearly in our players that we have improved over the last four years. Our game has changed. We are a team that can play good football, that defends well, pushes high up the pitch and presses from the front," said Alaba. "Of course, we're not everyone's favourites, but I have a lot of faith in us."
"We'll never back down, nor be afraid. We'll push and provoke, in the positive sense of the word," explained Koller, understandably bullish after an impressive run of two-and-a-half years without defeat in a competitive international.
Here is a look at Austria's Bundesliga contingent in full:
- Defenders: Györgi Garics (SV Darmstadt 98), Martin Hinteregger (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Markus Suttner (FC Ingolstadt 04), Florian Klein (VfB Stuttgart)
- Midfielders: David Alaba (FC Bayern München), Julian Baumgartlinger (1. FSV Mainz 05/Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Zlatko Junuzovic (SV Werder Bremen), Stefan Ilsanker (RB Leipzig), Alessandro Schöpf (FC Schalke 04), Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig)
- Forwards: Rubin Okotie (TSV 1860 München), Martin Harnik (VfB Stuttgart), Lukas Hinterseer (FC Ingolstadt 04)