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Koller: Tactical tinkering not to blame

Marcel Koller refused to blame his tactical tinkering for Austria’s limp exit at Euro 2016.

The Austrians won nine of 10 qualifiers and arrived in France as many people’s potential surprise packages but, having taken just one point from three games – including Wednesday’s last-gasp 2-1 defeat to Iceland in Paris – Koller has some serious questions to answer, chiefly around his use of David Alaba.

The Bayern Munich man, deployed primarily as a left-back at the Allianz Arena, was used as a central attacker in an experimental 3-4-3 formation against Iceland before Koller reverted to a more conventional system in the second half.

Despite their performance markedly improving after the break, Koller denied his initial plan had backfired.

He said: “In the first half we did not play well, like in the two games before we’ve committed too many errors, mistakes and poor passes. That’s why we could not create the pressure that we wanted.

“That has improved in the second half. That’s when we played like in the qualifiers.

“I don’t think the first half depended on the system but on the players being nervous. We did not combine well. The passes did not arrive, so that does not depend on the system.

“It was not enough to play just one half but nevertheless we have gained a lot of experience. Our players have gained from this and it’s important to play in a tournament with such a high level and such intense matches.”

On the improved second-half display, he added: “That was the first time it succeeded at this tournament, right? The passes were all tight and there was more focus.

“Maybe the expectations have been too high. I am always trying to approach our position precisely because I watch many games and that’s how I can judge who is an opposition you can win against or against whom you have to pay attention.”

The course of the game – and perhaps Austria’s entire fate at the tournament – changed when Aleksandar Dragovic missed a first-half penalty and Koller admitted the Dynamo Kiev defender was one of two men lined up for spot-kick duty.

“I determined two players to shoot, David [Alaba] or Drago,” he said. “Today there were two and they have to agree on the pitch who shoots. The one who feels better shoots.

“Drago has assumed this responsibility and that’s nothing we can blame him for.”

Iceland will now go on to play England in the last 16 after another heroic defensive display and Koller conceded Austria did not have enough guile to find a way through on more than one occasion.

“If there are 10 players in the penalty area, like an Icelandic wall, of course it is difficult and we had to find gaps,” he said.

“There was always a body or a leg in between us and the goal

“It’s bad luck that we have not scored the second goal.”

Wed 22 Jun, 2016
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