MUNICH Germany's recent defensive debacles may give Austria some encouragement as they attempt to end a run of eight successive defeats against their larger neighbours in Friday's World Cup qualifier.
Joachim Loew's team conceded nine goals in three friendlies they played during the summer, including three at home to Paraguay last month and four away to the United States in June.
But Friday's match in Munich still represents a daunting task for Austria, whose unhappy long-term decline has turned the fixture, once one of the most compelling in European football, into something of a damp squib.
Austria's last win over Germany was in 1986 and the last time they avoided defeat was a goalless draw 21 years ago. When they visited Germany in the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign two years ago, they came away battered and bruised after a 6-2 defeat.
Their performance in European Group C, however, has been encouraging and they are locked in an intriguing battle with Sweden and Ireland for second place and a two-leg playoff against another European side.
All three teams have 11 eleven points from six games, five behind the Germans who appear almost certain to finish top and qualify directly for Brazil next year.
Loew is certainly familiar with Austrian football as he won the league with Tirol Innsbruck in 2002, only to lose his job when they club were declared bankrupt.
He then spent a season at Austria Vienna, his last job in club football before becoming Germany's assistant coach in 2004.
"Everyone knows that our neighbours are always enormously motivated for a match against Germany," said Loew. "Austria are distinguished by their good pressing and the way they can switch play quickly. The influence of my esteemed colleague (Austria coach) Marcel Koller is clearly recognisable."
"They will give everything to maintain their chances of qualifying.
Nine of the Austrian squad are based in Germany including Bayern Munich midfielder David Alaba, who will be playing at his Allianz Arena home.
"I'll have to make sure I turn left instead of right when I get inside the stadium," he told Austrian media.
"A sensation is possible," he added. "We have already shown that we play good football and can cause problems for the best teams."
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Justin Palmer)