When the kick-off for the Europa League qualifying game between TSV Hartberg and the Polish first division club Piast Gliwice takes place on Thursday at 8 p.m. (ORF Sport +), then exactly 1,203 days have passed since Daniel Gremsl and Roko Mislov joined the Hartberger in the regional league with one 2-0 win against Kalsdorf for the championship title. But this victory on June 2, 2017 – combined with the promotion to the second highest division in Austria – should only be the beginning of something really big.
In the years that followed, not only did the long-awaited promotion to the Tipico Bundesliga take place, but also, after a fantastic 2019/20 season, the first qualifying round of the Europa League. Accordingly, the anticipation of the very first international match in the history of the Styrian sports club is “huge”, according to Hartberg trainer Markus Schopp. “We absolutely deserve it. This game is the culmination of last season,” said the native of Styria in the run-up to the historic duel.
Poland with a better record
Despite a good start to the season – after the 7-0 success against Dornbirner SV in the first round of the ÖFB Cup, there was a 1-1 draw against Altach at the start of the league at the weekend – Hartberg sees himself in the role of the outsider. “But we can deal with that because it has accompanied us in the Bundesliga for the past two years,” says Coach Schopp with certainty. Since the opponent from Gleiwitz had a failed start to the new championship and could only get a single point from the first three rounds, an open exchange of blows can be expected in a stadium that is largely empty due to the corona pandemic. If TSV Hartberg has its way, the previous negative European Cup record of domestic clubs against Polish clubs – in the previous fourteen knockout duels, the Poles have left the field nine times as winners – should be polished up a little in Gliwice.
Should the Hartberg team actually manage to win against Piast Gliwice, it would be next week’s third qualifying round away against the winner of the IFK Göteborg game against FC Copenhagen. “But this requires a compact team effort. Now it is up to us what we do with this moment, whether we just want to enjoy it or take on the challenge,” explained Schopp and at the same time made it clear: “I expect courage and courage. “(ana / what)