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Thursday 8 December 2016

A sleepy Vienna is braced for green army

Celtic fan Rod Stewart rocked Vienna last night, but football songs will take over the city in the coming days with over 3,000 Ireland supporters flying in for Saturday’s match. Pic: Getty Images
Celtic fan Rod Stewart rocked Vienna last night, but football songs will take over the city in the coming days with over 3,000 Ireland supporters flying in for Saturday’s match. Pic: Getty Images

While over 3,000 Ireland fans are due in Vienna this weekend for Saturday's World Cup tie with Austria, it was the turn of one individual who likes to wear green and white a lot and is known to sing songs about football to take over Vienna last night.

The locals needed a fat wallet to go and see Rod Stewart here in Vienna last evening, even the cheap seats costing €112.

For Irish fans, at least Vienna this weekend will be more affordable than a gig involving the most famous English-born, Celtic-supporting, tartan-wearing crooner around, though not on the level of the one-euro-per-beer standards of the recent trips to Belgrade and Chisinau.

Those away days tested the resolve of the Ireland fans but Saturday's game is one that the Irish support want to see, with the original ticket allocation to the FAI of 3,066 tickets for Irish fans sold out well in advance of the game.

Stewart's visit has been the focus for the city so far this week, Vienna not quite in the grip of football fever as Ireland prepare for what will be just the third game in the Austrian capital for Ireland since 1966.

They are more excited about the folder-carrying visitors for the many international conferences which land up in Vienna (if you want to hear a talk about 'Urban Diabetes' at the Euro Healthy conference today, then Vienna's the only place to be).

Football takes over at the weekend. If Ireland finished Euro 2016 on a high, then Austria were very much on a low, and they've dropped even lower since then.

Heading off to France as potential dark horses for the tournament overall, Austria stank the place out, picking up one point and scoring one goal.

Local supporters have, however, remained loyal and Saturday's game at the Ernst Happel Stadium was sold out weeks ago.

They like the Irish in Vienna, though whether their nuns and sleeping babies are ready to be serenaded on public transport by beer-wielding Ireland supporters remains to be seen.

Welcome

In terms of football, it's no wonder they welcome us here. In seven visits to Austria by the national team, from the post-war Vienna of 1952 to the dying days of the Trapattoni era, Ireland have played seven times in Austria, have never won, managed just one draw and scored two goals.

It's just over three years since Ireland last played here, a 1-0 loss thanks to David Alaba's late goal, but so much water has gone under the bridge since then, underlined by the fact that, of the Ireland squad that night, eight players have either quit the international scene or are very unlikely to be capped again.

And since then, Austria have turned their home patch into an impressive-looking fortress: eight wins and two draws from their last 10 competitive home games, the last side to win a qualifier in Vienna were Germany four years ago.

Once Rod Stewart has left town, a different sort of singing will take over the city.

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