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Austria seeks to level playing field with Germany

This Tuesday sees the 38th standoff between the two national teams since 1908. Austria lost all but eight of them, the last one a crashing 6-2 defeat last September. But now Austria is out to change history.

All soccer pundits agree: Austria is a much tougher opponent for the German team than the Faroe Islands last week.

"Austria is better and more confident than ever before," said Germany coach Joachim Löw ahead of the match, anticipating that this stand-off would take place on a level playing field. 

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Video: Löw says Austria is better than ever

"This time you can feel they mean it when they say they are sniffing a chance to beat Germany," he told reporters on Monday.

But despite his show of respect for Germany's neighboring country and its excellent state of preparation for the showdown, he is keen to stress: "We are not afraid."

Against the odds

Austriahasn't managed to beat Germany even once in the last twenty-six years.

But the matches are always highly emotional affairs.

Austria's coach, the Swiss national Marcel Koller, is well aware of the special relevance of this showdown: "You feel in Austria that the Germany game is 'the' game," he said in reference to the long-standing rivalry between the two neighbors.

And this time, the Germans could be in for a surprise: Since Koller took over in November his team, ranked 49th in the world by FIFA (compared to Germany in second place) has managed three consecutive wins and a draw and is so far unbeaten this year.

Tuesday's Brazil 2014 qualifier in Vienna's sold-out Ernst Happel Stadium will also be Koller's first competitive match as Austria coach.

The last time Austria qualified for a World Cup was in 1998 in France. In 2008 it only made it to the European championship because it was co-host with Switzerland.

Austrian captain, Christian Fuchs, who plays for Schalke in Germany's Bundesliga, believes the chances are much better this time around. He himself is keen to win and "come back to Germany and poke fun at my German teammates."

Indeed the two national teams know each other well: nine Austrian nationals play in the German Bundesliga. And it is quite possible that all of the eleven players in coach Koller's lineup will be professionals who play abroad.

So while Germany is again the favorite, they may face an Austrian side that is stronger than ever before.

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