Franco Foda is just about to finish with the Austrian national team. Already a point on Saturday (20.45 / live ORF 1) in the Vienna Happel Stadium against North Macedonia is enough to fix the participation in the EURO 2020.
In talks with the APA, however, the team boss warned against premature euphoria and also drew a summary of his two-year term.
The second group place is secured with five points ahead of the games against North Macedonia and Latvia. What is going to go wrong?
Franco Foda: In football you have to be always on guard, but we have a great starting position, which we have worked through very good games. The team is hungry now, everyone wants to go to the European Championships. Nevertheless, we have not achieved anything yet. Although we have it in our own hands, we still have to work in a highly concentrated and focused manner. We will only win against North Macedonia if we act with the same passion, dedication and joy as against Slovenia.
How great was your concern after the two defeats to the qualifying opener that it could not work with the European Championship?
Foda: I always believed in the team in this situation, and the team believed in itself.
After the defeats against Poland and Israel and before the June games against Slovenia and North Macedonia, the situation was also personally dire for you. At that time, were you worried about your job?
Foda: No, I never did. I was very critical of this situation, but also relaxed. I have not seen the first two games as bad as some around or in public. It was important that we stayed calm internally and drew the right conclusions. I never doubted our work or the crew. One must not forget that I had to restructure the team – there were resignations, I have many boys installed, we have played different systems, wanted to be more flexible. In such a process, there are always small setbacks. The fact that it then becomes restless outside is normal, but I've been in this business for a long time and do not let myself be discouraged in difficult situations. But you also have to be successful, so stay humble and down to earth, and that's the case with me.
Were you surprised how quickly the mood in March was down?
Foda: I've been living in Austria for a long time and know that there are often only black or white, because everything is very results-oriented. That's why it was not a big problem for me.
With which measures did you succeed the turnaround?
Foda: I talked to lots of players and wanted to hear their point of view. As a coach, the self-reflection is important, but you also have to perceive the feedback of the players. That was the basis for being successful again. The most important thing was that I continued to put my trust in the team. Many have expected after the two defeats that I will make many changes in the player sector, but I did exactly the opposite, because I was convinced by these players. We stuck to our concept and did not throw everything over.
What is your interim result after your two-year term?
Foda: Development is going in the right direction, but it is not over yet. We have a good mix between young and experienced players. Especially in difficult situations such as after the two defeats, you get to know the character of the players correctly, and there were the experiences very positive. No one has been looking for excuses, everyone has critically reflected his own performance. We have found a good trunk and are able to play two or three systems. The tactical alignment is always the same – we want to attack the enemy early, get fast ball conquests and play fast forward. Now we also have the quality to be patient with low-level opponents and to create opportunities. That gives the team confidence.
In which area is the team already where you want it, and where is there still room for improvement?
Foda: We certainly still have potential in the exploitation of opportunities. Otherwise, the team works quite well, she has become self-employed. I told the players that they have a lot of freedom on the offensive, that they can live their creativity and play football with a lot of risk. The second thing is that together we are trying to recapture the ball. We are also in a position to catch up and can defend a narrow result to the end, without allowing great opportunities. And the players regulate certain situations internally. There was a case that we handled quietly internally. This shows that the team has matured.
You mean the extensive birthday party of Martin Hinteregger before the Poland match?
Foda: Yes. I was impressed how closed because the team has occurred and also supported Martin, because every man makes mistakes. I believe that has also welded us together once more.
Since one could almost assume that the team would do more nightly trips from national players.
Foda: In team sports, there are rules that every player must adhere to. Nocturnal excursions before a game are not included. The most important thing is that the player has made the right conclusions and admitted his mistake. The topic is done for me.