Text size

Austria's second day of training for Saturday night's match against Israel's national team got off to a bad start yesterday after head coach Otto Baric lost the keys to his apartment. In keeping with Austrian law, Baric was forced to report the loss to the local police, who told him to wait in the apartment while the locks were changed. As a result, Baric missed his team's morning training session, which was run instead by assistant coach Didi Constantini.

Constantini sounded amused yesterday when asked about the team's culinary scandal which has made headlines across Europe. "The last time we were here and we ate a hot meal, we lost 5-0," he joked. "I hope that this time a hot meal will be enough for a draw."

The Austrian press was also in jovial mood yesterday. Reporting the inclusion of Tomislav Kocijan on the national squad, many papers commented on the team's large number of players of Croatian descent, renaming the side "the Austro-Croatian Empire." In addition to its Croatian coach Baric, the Austrian team now has four players from Croatia - Vakovic, Vastic, Kocijan and Golmatz.

During yesterday's morning training, first-choice goalkeeper Franz Wohlfahrt appeared to be fully fit, and sources inside the Austrian camp said they expect him to be in the starting line-up. Over lunch, the Austrian players were shown a tape of the 1-1 draw between Israel and Austria from the qualifying stages of Euro 2000. Today, they will watch a tape of Austria's 2-1 victory over Israel six months ago, followed by a final training session before flying to Israel.

It is believed that a lack of first-choice players - 14 have either refused to travel to Israel or have dropped out due to injury - will make life difficult for Baric, who insists on tactical discipline at all times. According to one journalist, "Austria does not have enough decent, experienced players."