Austria throw chance to 38-year-old Vastic

April 24, 2008

VIENNA, April 24 (Reuters) - Austria coach Josef Hickersberger recalled 38-year-old attacking midfielder Ivica Vastic on Thursday in a provisional 31-man squad for June's Euro 2008 tournament.

The Croatian-born player, who has scored 13 goals in 31 league matches for Linz this season, last played for Austria in a friendly 2-2 draw with Scotland in August 2005, under Hickersberger's predecessor Hans Krankl.

Hickersberger said Vastic would be a useful addition to the team if captain and playmaker Andreas Ivanschitz were to suffer an injury.

'As team coach you have to think about all the possibilities...and in such a case we would need an experienced player with oversight,' Hickersberger told reporters after announcing the squad.

'I have built up a young team and I will continue that approach but we have the European Championships coming up and have to be ready for everything.'

Defender Paul Scharner's hopes of a Euro 2008 recall were effectively ended, however, with Hickersberger omitting the Wigan player from the list which will be whittled down to produce Austria's final 23-man squad on May 28.

Scharner walked out on the Austrian national team in 2006 after publicly criticising Hickersberger's tactics and training methods but has since sought to patch things up with the coach.

Rapid Vienna players Uemit Korkmaz and Stefan Maierhofer have been called up for the first time after impressive performances during their club's successful Austrian league title campaign.

If he makes the final cut, Vastic is likely to be the oldest outfield player selected for Euro 2008, which Austria are co-hosting with Switzerland.

Vastic earned his first cap for Austria in 1996, shortly after receiving Austrian nationality and went on to play at the 1998 World Cup, scoring the 90th-minute equaliser in his side's group stage 1-1 draw with Chile.

Vastic's firepower could come in handy for the Austrians who have won just one of their last 14 matches and have scored only 10 goals in that time, with all but two coming from midfielders or defenders.

Goalkeepers: Christian Gratzei (Sturm Graz), Alexander Manninger (AC Siena), Juergen Macho (AEK Athens), Helge Payer (Rapid Vienna)

Defenders: Andreas Dober (Rapid Vienna), Gyorgy Garics (Napoli), Ronald Gercaliu (Austria Vienna), Martin Hiden (Kaernten), Andreas Ibertsberger (Hoffenheim), Markus Katzer (Rapid Vienna), Juergen Patocka (Rapid Vienna), Emanuel Pogatetz (Middlesbrough), Sebastian Proedl (Sturm Graz), Franz Schiemer (Austria Vienna), Martin Stranzl (Spartak Moscow)

Midfielders: Rene Aufhauser (Salzburg), Christian Fuchs (Mattersburg), Martin Harnik (Werder Bremen), Andreas Ivanschitz (Panathinaikos), Umit Korkmaz (Rapid Vienna), Christoph Leitgeb (Salzburg), Juergen Saeumel (Sturm Graz), Joachim Standfest (Austria Vienna), Ivica Vastic (Linz), Markus Weissenberger (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Forwards: Erwin Hoffer (Rapid Vienna), Marc Janko (Salzburg), Roman Kienast (Ham-Kam), Sanel Kuljic (Austria Vienna), Roland Linz (Braga), Stefan Maierhofer (Rapid Vienna) (Writing by Mark Ledsom in Berne, editing by Clare Lovell)