Austria coach Josef Hickersberger opted to recall veteran Ivica Vastic at the age of 38 to the Austrian squad for Euro 2008 when he named his final squad of 23 on Wednesday.
The Croatian-born midfielder will at least be able to tell the other players in the squad what it is like to appear at a major championships as he was in the last squad to play in one, the 1998 World Cup finals in which he played in all three matches and scored the goal in the 1-1 draw with Chile.
However, that failed to stop the Austrians from exiting at the first stage.
It says a lot about the paucity of talent at Hickersberger’s disposal that Vastic – who may well lock horns against his country of birth Croatia as they are in their group – has been recalled after a two-and-half year hiatus, making his 46th appearance, as a substitute, in the 1-1 draw with Nigeria on Tuesday.
Hickersberger, who knew better times as a player when he was part of the Austrian side that recorded an historic win over then world champions West Germany in the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina, had to make a last-minute addition to his 31-men pre-selection squad announced on April 24, after goalkeeper Helge Payer was forced to drop out on Tuesday due to a blood circulation problem.
He was replaced by Ramazan Ozcan who will compete with former Arsenal and now Siena ‘keeper Alexander Manninger and Jurgen Macho for keeping goal.
Up front Roman Kienast’s timely goal in the draw with Nigeria on Tuesday earned the player, who plys his trade with unfashionable Norwegian outfit Ham-Kam, a ticket to the finals.
Austria, who have a warm-up date with Malta on Friday, will be skippered by Andreas Ivanschitz of Greek side Panathinaikos – he is widely regarded along with Manninger as their only world class players.
Aside from Croatia, the Euro 2008 co-hosts will face debutants Poland and one of the favourites Germany in Group B.
Goalkeepers: Jurgen Macho (AEK Athens/GRE), Alexander Manninger (Siena/ITA), Ramazan Ozcan (Hoffenheim/GER)
Defenders: Gyorgy Garics (Napoli/ITA), Ronald Gercaliu (Austria Vienna), Martin Hiden (Austria Carinthia), Markus Katzer (Rapid Vienna), Jurgen Patocka (Rapid Vienna), Emanuel Pogatetz (Middlesbrough/ENG), Sebastian Proedl (Sturm Graz), Martin Stranzl (Spartak Moscow/RUS)
Midfielders: Rene Aufhauser (Salzburg), Christian Fuchs (Mattersburg), Andreas Ivanschitz (Panathinaikos/GRE), Umit Korkmaz (Rapid Vienna), Christoph Leitgeb (Salzburg), Jurgen Saeumel (Sturm Graz), Joachim Standfest (Austria Vienna), Ivica Vastic (Linz)
Strikers: Martin Harnik (Werder Bremen/GER), Erwin Hoffer (Rapid Vienna), Roman Kienast (Ham-Kam/NOR), Roland Linz (Braga/POR)
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