They're heroes back home

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

Their performances have been inspiring.

Particularly in their respective nations.

Now Gambia and Austria have a chance to take it one step further when they meet in the second round of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup tonight (5:45 p.m.) at Commonwealth Stadium.

"We've created excitement back home in Austria," head coach Paul Gludovatz said through an interpreter yesterday.

"Of course. now the expectations for this team have risen. Now this is not enough. If we can have another wild game, it would be fantastic.

"It's good that we have shown our Austrian football business card to the whole world. Now we have to try to move on."

The Austrians entered the tournament as one of four European qualifiers. They went undefeated in the group stage with a win and a pair of ties, good for second place behind Chile.

Their win came over the host Canadians, who bowed out on Sunday.

"The next step is to win another game," Gludovatz said. "But against Gambia it will be much harder to win and reach the quarter-finals.

"Both teams will try to make the most of their chances and use their weapons to go to the quarter-final."

Gambia qualified for the quarter-final with an impressive victory over Portugal in their last group game in Montreal. The win gave the Africans second place in their group and earned them a trip to Edmonton.

"Getting into the second round was a great achievement not just for the team, but Gambia in general, because this is our first appearance at this level of international football," said Gambian head coach Peter Bonu Johnson.

"After losing our first game 3-0, everybody ruled us out. It was very gratifying to see the boys give it a good fight, stick to our game plan and at the end of the day, thanks be to God, the results came."

The 3-0 loss to Mexico in Gambia's first game was deceiving. Gambia created a number of chances in the contest - especially in the first half - and had it not been for the outstanding play of Mexican goalkeeper Alfonso Blanco, would have scored a couple of goals.

The Austrians, meanwhile, played their best game of the tournament in a 0-0 tie with Chile in Toronto.

"We played very confident because we knew we were already in the next round and we were happy to be able to play without that stress," said Austrian midfielder Bernhard Morgenthaler.

"We hope we can play this type of game again, but we know it will be a harder game against Gambia."

Austria is taking part in only their second under-20 championship and third world youth tournament.

"We've heard that in Austria they are very happy that we've made it to the round of 16," Morgenthaler said.

The same can be said about Gambia. The West African country with a population of just over 1.5 million had never qualified for a world championship at any level prior to coming to Canada.

"When we beat Portugal, it was like a festival in Gambia," said midfielder Ebrima Sohna. "They were partying all over the street, cars were playing their horns. They were having a lot of fun ."


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