The U17 and U19 had already mastered their first European Championship qualification hurdle with confidence, the U20 secured their World Cup ticket after finishing third in the group at the U19 European Championship in the play-off, and the A team remained second in the pool in the Nations League in League A.
With ten points from six games, the team confidently took second place in Group A2 behind France (16) and thus secured their place at the highest league level in the European Championship qualification starting in the spring. Former world champions Norway (5) have to go into the play-offs, World Cup participants Portugal (3) have to be relegated to the B league.
“Outstanding year” for Austrian women’s football
2023 will go down in the annals of Austrian women’s football as a very successful year. The A team’s 2-1 win in the Nations League against Norway on Tuesday was a crowning achievement, as it sealed their stay in Europe’s elite. Before that, the youngsters had already been successful.
“Couldn’t be more successful”
“We couldn’t be more successful, it’s crazy, actually overwhelming,” summed up Fuhrmann. Only the opening 1:1 in Oslo had to lose points against the teams ranked behind, and more than two defeats (0:1 and 0:3) would have been possible against the French. “We are all overjoyed that we have achieved our goal. Staying in Group A is a great statement, exactly what we want, playing with the big boys. “You have to kick others out for that,” said Marie-Therese Höbinger.
GEPA/Walter Luger team boss Irene Fuhrmann can look back on a successful year in 2023
The Liverpool player is one of the up-and-coming young players who are now an integral part of the starting eleven. The fresh blood also has a good effect on the ÖFB game, and the squad width has also grown. This was also shown by the starting eleven debut of 20-year-old Tyrolean Lilli Purtscheller, including an assist in front of 1,300 spectators.
The next talents are knocking
Other players like Chiara d’Angelo are even younger and can play in the youth and senior teams. When you add successes like taking part in the U20 World Cup after a 6-0 win against Iceland on Monday, it’s even more special for the talents. “It’s a statement when you go to the World Cup with such a clear victory. I’m really impressed, one or the other will definitely come knocking on our door,” emphasized veteran Sarah Zadrazil. And Liverpool legionnaire Höbinger added: “Such successes show that we can also keep up with big nations in the U-teams. That speaks for the sustainability of the team.”
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At A level, according to Fuhrmann, no structure is lost anymore when changing. “We are on the right track.” Eileen Campbell is also on the right track, having replaced Nicole Billa as a striker within a very short space of time. A significant increase can be expected as a result of her move to SC Freiburg and her move into profit. “The change is an advantage in the long term because she has incredible potential that she has not yet been able to fully exploit. “I’m very excited to see where her journey will take her,” said Fuhrmann. Campbell’s opening goal (9th) was “top”, as many in the ÖFB camp emphasized after the game.
“We have developed further in a playful way”
This also applied to the performance before the break, where the ÖFB team combined impressively and controlled the game. After that, the victory could only be achieved with a stomach ache. “We made fatal mistakes, but the Norwegians couldn’t take advantage of it,” analyzed the 43-year-old. Captain Sarah Puntigam was also aware that a game like this would have to be played more confidently in the future. “This is an area where we still need to improve.”
Regularly competing against top teams has obviously been good for the Austrians and has taken some players to a new level. “We have developed enormously in terms of play, the next development step has been taken,” said ÖFB sports director Peter Schöttel. Goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger also emphasized this: “We have taken a big step, we are a small country, but ‘powerful’.” The mood in the team couldn’t be better. “The work is paying off, it’s really fun,” said Barbara Dunst.
European Championship qualification is the next goal
More highlight games await in 2024, with the ÖFB team fighting among the top 16 in Europe for a permanent place at the 2025 European Championship in Switzerland, which the best two teams in each of the four A-League groups will secure. A performance like the current one would secure a starting place. “Maybe we can pull off a coup like that again, but it will also depend on the draw,” said Fuhrmann.
Before that, there are one or two test games on the program in February, where Norway and Co. have to play in the play-off. For Fuhrmann, it’s a luxury that her players don’t have to be at full speed. The European Championship qualification will start in the spring. The third and fourth-placed teams in the A league have to take part in a multi-stage play-off in the fight for a European Championship ticket. On paper, this should be easier for an A-League participant to master than for teams in other performance levels. “We want to go to the European Championships in Switzerland and have laid the foundation by staying in the A league,” said Zadrazil.
Women’s Nations League, Gruppe A2
Austria – Norway 2:1 (1:0)
St. Louis Pölten, NV Arena, 1,300, SR Orchard Aza (ESP)
1:0 Campbell (9.)
2:0 Schiechtl (89.)
2:1 Saevik (94.)
Austria: Zinsberger – Naschenweng (83rd/Schiechtl), Georgieva, Kirchberger, Hanshaw – Puntigam (74th/Feiersinger) – Purtscheller (84th/Pinther), Zadrazil, Höbinger (93rd/Billa), Dunst – Campbell
Norway: Mikalsen – Bjelde (46./T. Hansen), Bergsvand, Harviken, Bratberg Lund – Syrstad Engen, Böe Risa (62./Naalsund) – Sävik, Terland (46./Ildhusöy), Maanum – Hegerberg (46./Haug)
Yellow cards: Kirchberger and Böe Risa