How Ralf Rangnick earned Austria’s respect and got a country dreaming

German has won over fans and brought fresh air to an association that struggled with entrenched structures

When the Austrian Football Association’s sporting director, Peter Schöttel, mustered the courage to make perhaps the most important call of his tenure, he was in his car on the motorway, making his way to a game. It was spring 2022 – and turbulent. Austria had failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, finishing a disappointing fourth behind Denmark, Scotland and Israel. They had another chance through the Nations League playoffs but lost 2-1 to Wales in their semi-final. The brief euphoria of the delayed Euro 2020, where they were narrowly beaten by the eventual champions, Italy, in the last 16, was long gone. Schöttel needed to take action.

“I just made the call,” Schöttel recalled on the podcast Von Spiel zu Spiel. He was looking for a new coach, mainly considering candidates who had worked in the Red Bull stable. He got a number from Christoph Freund, who was then the sporting director at RB Salzburg and is now with Bayern Munich. Schöttel dialled and somewhere in Manchester Ralf Rangnick picked up.

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