Koller defends Constantini

Marcel Koller has taken a stand on his predecessor’s policies.

The coach of the Austrian football national team said about Dietmar Constantini’s decision to nominate 47 players in 23 matches: “Constantini had to create change in the team. You have to search and try out things if it is your intention to give young players a chance. I nominated (18-year-old FC Admira striker) Marcel Sabitzer to work with him. This is important.”

Speaking to magazine profil, the former Grashopper Zurich captain said he preferred working with a group of around 30 players nevertheless. Koller claimed that fans would benefit as well. “I know it can be hard for fans if there are 10 new guys on the pitch in every match,” he added.

Koller took over from Constantini last year after the Austrian national team failed to qualify for the upcoming European Football Championship. The tournament will take place in Poland and Ukraine this June and July. The Austrian squad reached only fourth place in their qualification stage group. Joachim Löw’s German team won the group, with Turkey in second and Belgium in third. Germany face Portugal, World Cup 2010 finalists Netherlands and Euro1992 champions Denmark in their Euro2012 group.

Constantini managed Mainz 05, FK Austria Vienna and several other clubs before becoming manager of the Austrian national team. He resigned in September 2010 – just a few days after agreeing to stay around until the end of the year as initially agreed with Austrian Football Association (ÖFB) bosses. ÖFB director Willibald Ruttensteiner managed the team twice following Constantini’s resignation before Koller eventually took over.

Koller warned from exaggerated expectations. He told profil it would be impossible to make it into the FIFA’s top 30 in the coming two years. Austria – who face Ukraine in a friendly in Innsbruck tomorrow (Fri) – are currently only in 73rd place in the international football organisation’s global ranking. He also pointed out that teams sometimes drop some spots in the ranking shortly after victories while losing squads are upgraded.

The ex-VfL Bochum coach appealed on fans to give the team some time to develop and improve. He underlined that there were not as many Austrian players competing on top level abroad as many might assume, especially when two or three of them are sidelined with injuries. Koller also told profil that he would prefer to work with the team on the training pitch instead of spending a lot of time in the office, in courses and speaking to the press.

Asked which team fascinated him the most in the past months, Koller – who competed for Switzerland 55 times – named German Bundesliga champs Borussia Dortmund. “They won the first match of the season and then suffered a low. I was not sure at that time whether they will manage a comeback. I found their recovery very impressing.”

Several Austrian football experts, newspaper columnists and coaches criticised the ÖFB for assigning Koller for various reasons. But Christian Fuchs emphasised how much he appreciated the decision. The Schalke 04 star, who played for Bochum when Koller managed the club, said: “Koller knows a lot about modern football. He has got enough international experience.”