Mon 11 October, 2004 15:13
VIENNA, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Three Austrian players have pulled out of the squad with injury or illness ahead of Wednesday's World Cup Group Six qualifier against Northern Ireland, the Austrian Football Association confirmed on Monday.
Coach Hans Krankl may even lose two more players before the match in Belfast on Wednesday night.
Those definitely out are striker Mario Haas, who left the squad on Monday with a thigh strain, defender Joachim Standfest (stomach bug) and defender Anton Ehmann (elbow injury).
Krankl, whose side lost 3-1 at home to Poland on Saturday, will decide closer to kickoff whether midfielders Rene Aufhauser and Andreas Ivanschitz are fit to play.
Austria, who have won once, drawn once and lost once in their three games, need a win to keep alive their challenge for a place in the finals for the first time since 1998.
But they have lost all three matches they have played in Belfast, losing 3-1 there in 1983, 2-1 in 1991 and 5-3 nine years ago.
Northern Ireland desperately need another win over the Austrians to keep their faint hopes of qualifying for the finals alive after two draws and a defeat in their opening three matches. They played out a scrappy 0-0 draw with Azerbaijan on Saturday.
England lead the group with seven points from their three matches, followed by Poland (6), Austria (4), Wales, Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland, all on two.