“Let’s win!” – the legendary Austrian gallows humor in the 0: 9 against Spain
March 27, 1999: Austria suffered their highest defeat in 91 years in qualifying for the EM 2000 in Belgium and Holland against Spain. 0: 9 is the verdict in the end. The Ösis already show gallows humor when the score was 0: 5 at the break.
The ÖFB team headed by Herbert Prohaska traveled to Valencia in the spring of 1999 with a broad chest. After all, the Austrians have been unbeaten in five games and, after a draw against Israel and two clear wins against Cyprus and San Marino, lead the table in Group 6 after three game days. A 2-2 draw against the newly crowned world champion France in August and a 4-2 away win in St.Gallen against Switzerland also give them self-confidence.
The Austrians didn’t look bad at the 1998 World Cup in France. Led by Captain Toni Polster and Andreas Herzog, after two 1-1 draws against Cameroon and Chile, you can dream of the round of 16 until the last group game, but after the 2-1 defeat against Italy, you will end in the preliminary round.
Nevertheless: Against Spain, which has been involved in major tournaments for years but always fails in important games, the Austrians bargain for more than just outsider opportunities. But they did the math without the “Furia Roja”: The young team around the veterans Fernando Hierro, Pep Guardiola and Raúl gave Herbert Prohaska’s team a historic “Watsch’n”.
In freezing cold and stormy winds, the Spaniards set off as if stung by a tarantula. Already in the 6th minute, the outstanding Raúl brings the «Red Fury» into the lead after a wonderful direct game. Eleven minutes later, he doubled up with an almost perfect siphon. And the team of coach José-Antonio Camacho knows no mercy: Ismail Urzaiz with a pike header, Hierro with a penalty and again Urzaiz increase to 5: 0 until the break.
The legendary break interview
“I’ve never experienced anything like it in my career,” rumbles Austria’s association president Beppo Mauhart upstairs in the stands. Meanwhile, Toni Pfeffer answers questions from the ORF reporter in the catacombs. “We were too far away from the man and so it was easy for them,” the central defender tries to explain. “We have to come up with something now, otherwise it will really be a bad debacle.” When asked what is still possible in the second half, the legendary sentence follows: “Let’s take it up.”
No, the Austrians really don’t win much anymore. On the contrary: The defense around Dortmund’s Wolfang Feiersinger and “Rambo” Pfeffer can be played out again and again after the break. Raúl completes his personal four-pack with two more goals, later Arnold Wetl with an own goal and substitute Fran ensure the 9-0 final score.
The Spaniards could have won even higher. A spectacular side pull from Raúl is wrongly not given because of offside, once the post saves and several times the ball just barely misses the goal of the pitiful Franz Wohlfahrt.
Toni Pfeffer does not appear for the interview after the embarrassment, but goalkeeper Wohlfahrt. His statements are in no way inferior to those of his teammates in terms of irony: “With me in absolute top form, it would have been 0: 8,” said the goalkeeper of VfB Stuttgart at the time.
Resignation and long suffering
But the embarrassment also has serious consequences. Herbert Prohaska resigns two days after the highest away defeat in ÖFB history, although Austria is still the leader of the table and with 1.65 he has the highest point average of all team bosses in 20 years.
Otto Baric takes over for “Schneckerl”, as Prohaska was called in his youth for his lush, curly hair. But even the eccentric Croat cannot lead the Austrians back on track. Despite a 7-0 victory over San Marino, Barrage missed second place in the end because of the goal difference (Israel: +13, Austria: -1).
This is followed by six more unsuccessful attempts to qualify for a World Cup or European Championship finals. But you are only at the home European championship in 2008. Under the Swiss and current FCB coach Marcel Koller it worked again in 2016 with the qualification for a European Championship finals – thanks to a qualification point average of 1.88. Even TV expert Herbert Prohaska had to revise his initial skepticism.
Pfeffer repeats his legendary sentence
By the way: In the 1/16 final of the Europa League, Austria’s next debacle comes 17 years later at the Estadio Mestalla. Rapid Vienna is also sent 0: 5 from Valencia to the break in the first 45 minutes. And what is Sky Austria doing? They show humor and actually call Toni Pfeffer as an expert at halftime. At the end he should please repeat his legendary sentence. And pepper actually does it.
This time too, he should be right. Rapid doesn’t win any more, after all it’s not 0: 9, but “only” 0: 6. In the second leg, however, the “green-whites” conceded a 0: 4 defeat at home: 0:10 is the balance at the end.
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