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It’s time to gamble, Hickersberger tells Austria

sports Updated: Jun 11, 2008 22:24 IST

Coach Josef Hickersberger has told Austria to throw caution to the wind against Poland in a Group B game on Thursday that will leave the losers perilously close to a Euro 2008 exit.

Austria went down fighting in a 1-0 loss to Croatia in Vienna, while Poland were outclassed by tournament favourites Germany in a 2-0 defeat at Klagenfurt in Sunday's matches.

The co-hosts improved in the second half against Croatia but only looked really dangerous when they surged forward in the final 20 minutes, exposing themselves at the back.

"It is clear to me that this is a decisive game, but it is the same for Poland," Hickersberger told a news conference on Tuesday. "Now it is all or nothing.

"We must beat them. We must take risks from the start."

Looking back at his side's spirited display, he added: "In the second half we played very well. We gave a performance against an opponent like Croatia which months ago, weeks ago even, I would not have expected from my team."

They can again count on plenty of vocal home support at the Ernst Happel stadium, while Roland Linz and defender Emanuel Pogatetz are both fit to play after minor injuries.

Poland need to overcome the loss of captain Maciej Zurawski, whose stay in the group stage ended at halftime on Sunday after suffering a thigh injury.

The midfielder might be fit for later, should the Poles reach the last eight, though his team will clearly need to step up a gear after losing.

Pale shadow

Poland looked a pale shadow of the side who secured their place at the finals as group winners and there are unlikely to be sweeping changes in the line-up.

Forward Ebi Smolarek, who scored nine times in qualifying and had a goal narrowly disallowed for offside against Germany, should again provide the Poles' main threat down the middle.

Smolarek, who knows his side are already running short of options, told reporters: "We have to play Austria next and we must win that game if we are to have any chance; and then we also have to beat Croatia and that won't be easy."

Winger Wojciech Lobodzinski made some good runs down the right and Roger Guerreiro, a Brazilian-born midfielder who only received Polish nationality in April, should also get another chance after replacing Zurawski for the second half.

Jakub Wawrzyniak is likely to replace Pawel Golanski at left back after the latter struggled against the Germans and was at fault for at least one of the goals.

"The goals we conceded against Germany came as a result of individual mistakes and that's part of football," Poland coach Leo Beenhakker told a news conference on Tuesday.

"Sometimes you have miscommunication at the back but one of our players stepped out and didn't stick to what we had organised. And you cannot do that."