This article is part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Experts Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 16 countries who have qualified. theguardian.com is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 6 July.
Five years is a long time. Not only in the world of football, but perhaps especially there. In 2017, Austria made their debut on the big women’s football stage, at the Euros in the Netherlands, and took the country on an unimaginably successful ride. The underdogs reached the semi-finals, creating hype around the team at home and abroad. Public attention and affection grew and suddenly names such as Manuela Zinsberger, Viktoria Schnaderbeck and Sarah Puntigam were becoming well known, featuring on TV and in commercials.
Before these Euros in England some of the names have changed, and so has the perception of the team. “The signs are completely different now,” the Bayern Munich defender Carina Wenninger has said. “The other teams know who we are now.”
If we are honest, the hype after the last Euros did not last too long. Women’s football may now have a bigger role within the football federation but Austria still struggles to get young girls into football. At the moment only 7% of active players in Austria are female.
However the national team, now under the stewardship of Irene Fuhrmann, who took over from Dominik Thalhammer in 2020, continue to make progress and have taken several steps forward recently. Fuhrmann has an excellent mix of experienced and young players, who are pushing each other to play a refreshing and successful style of football. “Our great asset is our versatility,” she says. “As a team and as individuals we are prepared to take on every challenge.”
Austria were outstanding in qualifying, drawing at home against France and conceding only three goals throughout the whole campaign. They qualified as one of the best group runners-up and Wenninger, who was part of the 2017 squad, says: “We have an even better team now than then.”