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Ivanschitz left off squad for Serbia clash

By Thomas Hochwarter

Austria will play against Serbia without former team captain Andreas Ivanschitz.

National team coach Dietmar Constantini said today (Tues) the Panathinaikos Athens midfielder would not be part of his 23-man squad for the crucial World Cup qualifier taking place on 6 June in Belgrade.

Earlier this week, Ivanschitz had criticised Constantini for leaving him off the team when Austria played Romania on 1 April. Ivanschitz said he still regarded himself as captain of the team and expected to make a comeback against Serbia despite that Constantini had named Middlesbrough defender Emanuel Pogatetz the team’s new captain ahead of the match with Romania.

Pogatetz, however, will not play against Serbia since he is out with a knee injury. Wigan Athletic defender Paul Scharner will replace him as captain. Pogatetz said yesterday he planned to stay with Middlesbrough despite the team’s relegation from the Premier League after this season. The 26-year-old said only an offer by a club that competed internationally could tempt him to leave the club he had joined in 2005.

Spartak Moscow defender Martin Stranzl returns to the national team after being left out the last time around. Stranzl, meanwhile, has regained a spot in the Russian team’s starting line-up.

Constantini called up two debutants, Sturm Graz midfielder Jakob Jantscher and Ekrem Dag from top Turkish club Besiktas Istanbul.

Twente Enschede striker Marko Arnautovic, son of a Serbian father and an Austrian mother, will not play against Serbia after suffering a fracture. The 20-year-old, who is being targeted by clubs like Chelsea and Inter, may be out for three to four months.

Bochum defender Christian Fuchs and Red Bull Salzburg midfielder Christoph Leitgeb have also not been called up due to injuries.

Rapid Vienna goalkeeper Helge Payer, however, may make a comeback after leaving the team a few days ahead of Euro2008 with a life-threatening blood clot.

Austria are now in fourth place in their qualification group for next year’s World Cup in South Africa with seven points, ahead of Romania (4) and the Faroe Islands (1). Serbia are leaders with twelve points in five games, followed by France (10) and Lithuania (9). Only the teams that finish first in their respective groups will qualify for the World Cup, while the second-place teams will meet in another qualification round.

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