Austria squad for Women’s Euro 2022: player profiles - Zadrazil, Billa...
With a squad headlined by star player Sarah Zadrazil, Austria are out to repeat the impressive performance they gave at their first ever Euros four years ago.
As part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Experts’ Network, a collaboration between media outlets from 16 countries, AS is offering in-depth profiles of the players in all 16 squads at the tournament, which runs from 6 to 31 July. This lowdown on the Austria squad is written by Der Standard’s Andreas Hagenauer.
Date of birth: 19 October 1995
Zinsberger has made a name for herself after joining Arsenal in 2019, establishing herself as the No 1 at one of England’s strongest sides and a triple save against Tottenham in 2021 was named “Save of the season” by the Women’s Super League. She began playing at her hometown club USV Leitzersdorf but with no intention of being a goalkeeper. When one of the team’s goalkeepers got injured, her coach asked her if she could step in: “I said: ‘Yeah sure’ and was happy because as a goalkeeper you don’t have to run that much.” Zinsberger became one of the faces of the successful national side at the 2017 Euros, which boosted interest in women’s football in Austria. Always up for a joke, asking and answering her own questions in post-match-interviews and, after a draw against France in October 2020, Zinsberger took a huge speaker from the dressing room to the pitch to celebrate the result by singing Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now.
Date of birth: 28 November 1998
Club: St Pölten
Kresche is one of the tallest (183cm) goalkeepers in women’s football in Austria but also considered one of the quietest members of the squad. Growing up she took part in goalkeeper camps organised by the former Austrian goalkeeper Roland Goriupp. Has come through the youth system at St Pölten and has fought her way back to the Austria squad after missing the 2017 Euros because of injury. She has a degree in economics from Vienna University and now works in managerial accounting. Kresche is a passionate reader (“I love reading books in my free time and I prefer books in English because they are often better”) and the quote on her profile page on the St Pölten website says “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change”.
Date of birth: 24 August 1996
A trained nurse, graduating in 2019, Pal took the step from FC Wacker Innsbruck to SC Sand in the Frauen-Bundesliga in 2020. “There were times I wondered whether I had done the right thing,” she said “but I grew into it.” Suffered a cruciate ligament injury in January 2022 and has had to fight hard to get back before the Euros. Always listens to music in the bus on the way to the stadium “and tries to visualise the game”. Has become quite good at hiding her Tyrolian accent when speaking to German media.
Date of birth: 6 February 1991
A true Bayern legend, having been at the German club since 2007 and won three league titles, she has just joined Italian club Roma on loan for next season. Grew up in the same town near Graz (Thal) as Arnold Schwarzenegger and played against David Alaba’s Austria Vienna as a youngster. “We lost,” she remembers, before adding “heavily”. Despite that Alaba and Wenninger became friends. Has admitted to “being addicted” to going out for a coffee (especially Italian). One of only a few Austrian players with more than 100 caps, she is a very calming influence on her teammates with excellent positioning.
Date of birth: 4 January 1991
Club: Free agent
A cousin of the former Watford defender Sebastian Prödl, she is the captain and inspiration of this Austrian team. Has had many injury setbacks in her career but has always managed to fight her way back. On the pitch she is the undisputed leader, off the pitch she’s not afraid of discussing any topic when it comes to women’s football and has long been an advocate for introducing new maternity rules. In November 2020 she told Der Standard: “Two years ago I became a keynote speaker and I have a master’s in business psychology and have started a new project called Be the One to help girls and women in football. So I am never going to be bored.” Won two league titles with Bayern Munich and one in the WSL with Arsenal. Spent the 2021-22 season on loan at Tottenham and officially left the Gunners last month.
Date of birth: 13 January 1999
An experienced defender despite her tender age, she joined Arsenal from Hoffenheim in January 2022. “When I first heard about the Arsenal offer I couldn’t believe it – and I still can’t believe it,” the fast and skilful defender said. When asked to describe her playing style she remarked: “I think I can run for the whole 90 minutes and I can also be a creative player. In addition I can also be a little aggressive girl at times!” Wienroither is also the first squad member to host her own show at the football federation’s television channel ÖFB TV, an online programme covering everything from grassroots girls’ football to interviews with current men’s first-team players such as David Alaba or Marko Arnautovic.
Date of birth: 20 January 1994
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Euro 2017 completely changed Verena Hanshaw’s life. First of all she was the only member of the Austria team to be included in the team of the tournament, putting a host of clubs around Europe on alert. Secondly she met her future husband, Joe Hanshaw, a creative director from London, during the tournament in the Netherlands. The versatile defender can also operate on the left wing, creating opportunities with her pace and good passing. “The fascinating thing about football,” she once said “is that with one bad decision you can lose an entire game while with one good decision you can win it. It’s a thrilling game.”
Date of birth: 16 December 1997
Is often (at least by the Austrian media) asked whether she is related to folk music star Melissa Naschenweng, who stems from the same province. She is not. Scored a stunning goal for Hoffenheim against Danish club HB Køge in the group stage of the Champions League. She describes herself as quiet and “not too outgoing”. Named her dog Giotto (an Italian sweet) and, apart from football, she likes to go skiing. Has been with Hoffenheim since 2019, when she joined from Sturm Graz.
Date of birth: 16 May 2001
Tremendously hard-working she had to wait longer than expected to make her Austria debut, but did not take long to settle in and scored in her second game for her country. Describes her herself as someone who is “good at taking on what the coaches say and bring that to the pitch” as well as being “physically strong”. Once said she wishes the media would take women’s football more seriously and when asked a series of questions while doing keepy uppies she revealed that she prefers dessert to starter and, crucially, Nutella on bread without butter rather than with. Is joining FC Cologne this summer.
Date of birth: 13 April 1997
A physically strong defender with a good understanding of the game and a good set of skills. Was seen as something of a wonderkid and won the Austrian league title with St Pölten in 2015 and 2016. Now 25 and with Sand in Germany, she likes many other sports such as skateboarding and paddleboarding and often shares pictures or videos of her performing them on Instagram.
Date of birth: 27 February 1993
Club: Werder Bremen
The tall defender has spent most of her career at the German club Werder Bremen (since 2013) and says she likes the city because of the parks, which remind her of her hometown in Tyrol. Likes to spend her holidays at home in the mountains. Growing up she thought about pursuing a career in ski jumping, with her longest jump coming in at 21 metres, but opted for football in the end: “At first we had built a small jump in our garden backyard and I had so much fun. I begged my father to get me a real jumping suit. We then started to visit a nearby village, where they had a small ski jump. After some years of training, however, I had to decide between ski jumping and football. I’m glad I opted for football.”
Date of birth: 25 May 1993
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Nicknamed Gini, the Frankfurt defender did not start playing football until she was 11 but, boy, did she not waste any time once she got going. Her first senior game came a mere four years later in the Austrian Cup final for Landhaus, although they lost 6-2 against Neulengbach. Her former teammate Irene Fuhrmann is now the head coach of the Austrian national team. Before football came into her life Kirchberger was a passionate ballet dancer, hoping to one day perform the “Schwanensee”. Suffered a serious injury in the World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg in November 2021 but always hoped to make the Euros. While recovering she said: “It’s getting better and better and for the first time in my life I’m really excited to get on the treadmill and do some running.”
Date of birth: 19 February 1993
Club: Bayern Munich
A key player for Austria and her club Bayern Munich, Zadrazil is a skilful player with a superb passing range. Very calm on the ball, Zadrazil sharpened her football skills at the East Tennessee State University, where she set several records. She is the first female footballer to sign a sponsorship deal with Red Bull. Loves fashion and sports in general (such as American football and Formula One), is a trained nursery teacher, knows how to ride a unicycle and vlogs about her life as a professional footballer. Busy, then.
Date of birth: 5 April 1993
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Daughter of the former Austria and Borussia Dortmund defender Wolfgang Feiersinger who, according to Laura, gave her the most important advice in her life: “Just don’t give a damn.” A technically gifted and physically strong midfielder, she can decide games with her ability to go past players with her rich repertoire of dribbles. Being a footballer is not all positive though and she once, jokingly, revealed that a fan had sent her a terrible poem on Instagram. Tried several sports, such as athletics and biathlon, when growing up and loves going to the mountains. Moved to Germany as early as 2010, she has said she would like to be a coach when she retires.
Date of birth: 25 September 1997
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
One of the most improved Austrian players of the past few years. A modern midfielder, she is very fast, has good dribbling skills and also knows how to score. Dunst was born in Graz and played in the Austrian Bundesliga before moving to Germany in 2017. Now with her third Frauen Bundesliga club in Eintracht she once said about the Austrian league: “Austrian women’s football should aim to create more balance in the domestic league, which would lead to a more competitive team at international level. To make that happen requires more media coverage and, among other things, a certain amount of basic financial resources.”
Date of birth: 8 October 1992
Club: St Pölten
Every Christmas Eder hosts a dinner party for her closest friends and donates the income to charity. She also works full time at the Austrian football federation, where she is responsible for advancing women’s football on the professional and amateur side. Captains Austria’s most successful club, St Pölten. Once said in an interview about how she started out in football: “I just always wanted to play football. I can still remember a moment when I sat in front of the computer and read on the internet that Arsenal have a girls’ academy. Before that I was not aware that girls and women also have a chance to play football professionally. I printed out the page and I think that was pretty much the moment I knew that I wanted to do that too!”
Date of birth: 13 October 1992
The player with the most number of games for Austria (120 and counting at the time of writing). Puntigam is a mentally strong and technically gifted player and a born leader. Has just joined Cologne for next season, but she was at Montpellier from 2018 until this summer and once said that an away game at Rodez Aveyron had been one of the worst experiences because the stadium was “really old and they didn’t even have proper toilets.” Also said that Denmark and Chelsea’s Pernille Harder is the toughest opponent she has ever faced.
Date of birth: 1 July 2001
Club: Turbine Potsdam
Moved to Potsdam in Germany at the age of 13 to enrol at boarding school. “I learned to be independent there,” she said in an interview. “At the boarding school I was challenged from the start to have structure in my daily routine, to fulfil my duties – such as doing homework but also tidying up, washing my clothes and so on – and to organise myself.” Definitely one of the best dribblers in the team, she says she loves all ball sports and wants to study psychology in the future.
Date of birth: 26 July 2002
Club: Sturm Graz
Another young player with a promising future. Already the captain of SK Sturm, who ran perennial champion St Pölten close in the league last season. Schasching, who went through the ÖFB academy, always wears two armbands. One is black to represent the colours of Sturm and one is rainbow-coloured: “The rainbow armband represents respect, diversity, and acceptance. For me, these are extremely important values that are still not guaranteed in our society. I want to make a statement, even if it’s just a small one. But it’s very important to me.”
Date of birth: 1 August 1999
Probably the fastest player in the squad, Hickelsberger is a young and ambitious player who is sometimes unstoppable due to her speed and technique. Ruptured her cruciate ligament in November 2020, which meant a temporary stop to her progress. “Julia Hickelsberger’s cries of pain went through everyone’s bones,” the Austria coach, Irene Fuhrmann, said at the time. She is back now though and when she is not training or playing games she posts updates about her and her dog Poppy on Instagram. Joining Hoffenheim in the summer after three years with St Pölten.
Date of birth: 5 March 1996
Austria’s go-to-woman when it comes to goals. Was named player of the year in the German Bundesliga in 2021, having won the Golden Boot with 23 goals and the most dangerous forward of this Austrian team by some distance. The 43 international goals has already made her the second-highest scorer of all time in Austrian women’s football behind Nina Burger – and she is only 26. She is a trained nursery teacher as well as a former youth world and European kickboxing champion. “I was never knocked out, others were,” she once said. Billa is very concerned about the environment and does what she can to avoid unnecessary waste. She is also extremely excited about playing England in the opening game: “I’m really looking forward to the Euros, especially the opening game will be fantastic. When there are 75,000 people at Old Trafford, it’s a moment in life that you just have to enjoy.”
Date of birth: 25 November 1990
Club: St Pölten
One of the oldest and most experienced players in the squad, Enzinger has a wonderful left foot and is good in the air. Struggled with injuries last season but managed to make the squad at the last moment. A member of the the squad that made it to the Euro 2017 semi-finals she was then dropped by former coach Dominik Thalhammer but has made a return under Irene Fuhrmann. “Young girls should be encouraged to play football more,” she has said, “and play with the boys as long as possible.”
Date of birth: 11 May 1992
Club: Austria Vienna
Made the news in January this year when her new club, Austria Vienna, made a announcement making people think that they had signed a player for the men’s team rather than the women’s team. Some were angry, posting messages such as “What’s this nonsense? Why have you announced a female player?” but the press officer, Ralph Schön, was pleased with how it went. “We were aware that the campaign would create some headlines but there were also many positive reactions too,” he said. A proven-goalscorer, Makas was on target when Austria drew 1-1 against France at Euro 2017, saying later that it was “the most important goal of my career”.