Koller charts Austria's climb

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Koller charts Austrias climb
Marcel Koller has been instrumenal in turning the Austrian team's fortunes.

Vienna - Unassuming coach has transformed Wunderteam into a formidable outfit

By AFP

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Published: Fri 20 May 2016, 2:19 PM

Last updated: Sat 21 May 2016, 12:19 AM

Appointed with little fanfare and a great deal of scepticism, Marcel Koller has transformed a struggling Austrian team remarkably during his four-plus years in charge.
A former midfielder who spent his entire playing career with Swiss side Grasshoppers and turned out 55 times for Switzerland, Koller was installed as Austria coach in October 2011, replacing Dietmar Constantini after a failed bid to qualify for Euro 2012.
Languishing in 70th place when Koller took charge, Austria broke into the top 10 of the Fifa world rankings for the first time last November after strolling through a tricky qualifying group with Russia, Sweden and Montenegro.
"Looking back, I'm not really angry at anybody who said those things," said Koller, whose hiring left fans underwhelmed and newspapers questioning whether he was the right man to reverse Austria's downward slide.
"I was convinced that people didn't really know me and weren't really well informed about me so that's why I didn't change my path. I know what I'm capable of."
After a 19-year playing career, which saw him claim seven Swiss league titles and five Swiss Cups as well as feature at Euro 96, Koller took his first coaching job with FC Wil in 1997 before moving onto St Gallen and leading them to a first championship in almost a century.
Koller then returned to Grasshoppers and guided them to the 2002/03 league title. But his first stop abroad ended in disappointment as Cologne were relegated from the Bundesliga in 2004.
Working with few resources, the Swiss blooded young talent including future Germany striker Lukas Podolski but was unable to save Cologne from the drop and was sent on his way after less than a full season at the helm.
Koller was unknown in Austria before he was handed the reins of a nation that hadn't qualified for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup.
Although Austria missed out on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, they showed signs of promise that would bear fruit two years later as Koller, whose side opened their European Championship qualifying campaign with a respectable draw against Sweden, then masterminded a run of nine successive victories to see Austria prevail as runaway Group G winners.
Not one to experiment, Koller used the same formation throughout the qualifiers, heavily relying on core members - David Alaba, Marco Arnautovic, Christian Fuchs and Zlatko Junuzovic - of his squad with only 17 players used in total.
"In the past four and a half years we've built a homogeneous team which isn't at the peak of its success yet," said Koller, who was rewarded with a two-year extension that will keep him in charge through to the next World Cup.



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