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´Mad Dog´ Pogatetz named new ÖFB team captain

By Thomas Hochwarter

Middlesbrough ace Emanuel Pogatetz has been named to head the Austrian national team in its crucial World Cup qualifying match against Romania next week.

New ÖFB team manager Dietmar Constantini yesterday (Thurs) confirmed speculation he would hand over the armband to the 26-year-old after deciding not to nominate Andreas Ivanschitz, who had led the team since 2003.

Constantini said he regarded Pogatetz as a "leading figure" on the team, while Pogatetz, nicknamed "Mad Dog" for his aggressive style of play, announced his main job would be to help young players who had received their first call-up.

In the run-up to Constantini’s decision, former Spartak Moscow player Pogatetz made clear he would be disappointed if someone else was chosen.

Wigan Athletic midfielder Paul Scharner was named as Pogatetz’ deputy. Scharner said earlier this week: "Emanuel (Pogatetz) and I have opened our mouths a lot in the past. Now we are ready to take responsibility."

Bochum defender Christian Fuchs had also been rumoured for the role but his age, 22, might have been the reason why the coach opted for the Premiership veterans. Pogatetz captains his club while Scharner, 29, recently became the first player to play his 100th league game for Wigan.

Austria will try to keep the dream of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa alive next Wednesday (1 April) when the team meets Romania.

Austria are currently in fourth place in group 7 while Serbia have the lead. Lithuania are in second place ahead of France. Romania are fourth, with the Faroe Islands at the bottom.

Only the team that finishes first in its group will secure a place at the World Cup. Second-place teams will meet in another qualifying round.

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