Austrians dreaming big

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

Austria was not supposed to be here. But now that they're in the semifinal of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup they're having visions of a championship dancing in their heads.

The next step on that road is to beat the Czech Republic.

"The chancellor of Austria, when he was a little boy, dreamed about being the chancellor of Austria," said Austrian head coach Paul Gludovatz through an interpreter. "He's been able to achieve it. When I was a little boy I dreamed of being a world champion. I haven't achieved it yet. But the chancellor has invited me for a glass of wine and it would be very nice if I could meet him as a world champion."

Prior to this tournament Austria had never won a game at the Under-20 level. In their previous two appearances, the Austrians had never won a match. They bowed out after the group stage of the competition in 1977 and 1983.

At this tournament, Austria has yet to lose a game. They concluded the group stage with a win over Canada sandwiched between ties with Congo and Chile. They then defeated Gambia in the second round and the United States in the quarter-finals by identical 2-1 scores.

While the Austrians will again be underdogs heading into the semifinal, the Czech Republic is a familiar opponent - one they have beaten in the past.

"I don't think it's in our minds yet that we're one game away from the final," said Austrian striker Erwin Hoffer.

"Speaking to the players, it's just a normal tournament and we have one game that we have to win. But if we go back to Austria as world champions then we will realize it."


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