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David Alaba is expected to shine for Austria
David Alaba is expected to shine for Austria

After a disappointing group stage exit in their second European Championship tournament in 2016, Austria will be hoping for a vast improvement this time around.

But they come into Euro 2020 having not won a game at a major finals since the 1990 World Cup — a record they will be desperate to change.

Boasting players such as serial winner David Alaba and the mercurial Marko Arnautovic, Franco Foda’s men look set to be fighting for second place in Group C alongside Ukraine, with the Netherlands expected to win it and North Macedonia likely to struggle.

Background

Failure to reach the World Cup in Russia three years ago meant Foda was brought in to replace Marcel Koller, who had been in charge since 2011.

He inherited a lot of frustration from fans and the media, who were far from happy with the style of play and failure to fully utilise the talented young players who were beginning to emerge.

With their only win from the last five games coming against the Faroe Islands, there is still plenty of work for Foda to do if Austria are to make an impact.

How they qualified

Having already beaten North Macedonia home and away in qualifying, Austria will fancy their chances against at least one of the teams they will face at Euro 2020. 

They were not under too much pressure to secure second but neither did they really lay a glove on group winners Poland, who they ended up six points adrift of.

Former Stoke and West Ham forward Arnautovic was their top scorer in qualifying with six goals.

And although the Austrians ended the campaign as the group’s top scorers, the 32-year-old is likely to find himself under pressure to find the net during the tournament. 

He needs just two more strikes to equal Toni Polster’s national record of 15 Euro goals, including qualifiers.

The line-up

Marcel Sabitzer made 11 Bundesliga goal contributions in 2020-21
Marcel Sabitzer made 11 Bundesliga goal contributions in 2020-21

Foda’s favoured system is 4-2-3-1 with Arnautovic leading the line. 

But after scoring 16 goals in 33 Bundesliga games for Stuttgart in 2020-21, Sasa Kalajdzic will be pushing to take his place.

Austria are built to sit in and hit on the counter but could be forced to dictate the play against the likes of Ukraine and North Macedonia.

Skipper Julian Baumgartlinger is fully expected to be fit after a serious knee injury and the Bayer Leverkusen ace will anchor the midfield alongside Konrad Laimer.

Marcel Sabitzer will be in the No10 role, flanked by Alaba and Christoph Baumgartner.

The back four will most likely consist of Stefan Lainer, Martin Hinteregger, Alexander Dragovic and Andreas Ulmer, with Alexander Schlager in goal — though Watford's Daniel Bachmann was handed a start against England on Wednesday.

Predicted line-up: Schlager; Lainer, Hinteregger, Dragovic, Ulmer; Baumgartlinger, Laimer; Baumgartner, Sabitzer, Alaba; Arnautovic.

Star man: David Alaba

David Alaba scored twice and supplied four Bundesliga assists for Bayern in 2020-21
David Alaba scored twice and supplied four Bundesliga assists for Bayern in 2020-21

Austria’s talisman is new Real Madrid signing Alaba, who agreed to join Los Blancos after a decade at Bayern Munich.

Mainly utilised as a full-back or centre-back at Bayern, he plays in a much more advanced role for the national team — and his versatility is what makes him stand out.

Alaba, 28, averaged two crosses per 90 minutes and 2.8 key passes for Austria in their Nations League campaign, as opposed to 0.2 and 0.9 respectively in the Bundesliga, illustrating his greater responsibility.

Up-and-comer: Christoph Baumgartner

Almost guaranteed to start out wide for Austria, it could be a huge summer for Hoffenheim’s Baumgartner.

The 21-year-old is dynamic and will thrive if he has space to attack going forward.

His one goal and two assists in the Nations League showed a glimpse of his potential.

Like Alaba, he takes on an even greater attacking role for the national side and averages 3.3 key passes per 90 minutes, as opposed to 1.1 for Hoffenheim.

The boss: Franco Foda

Although Foda is German, most of his coaching life has been spent in Austria with Sturm Graz, with the exception of a season in charge of Kaiserslautern in 2012-13.

The 55-year-old finished his playing career with the Austrian outfit in 2001 before taking control of their amateur side.

Foda went on to rise through the ranks, becoming assistant, second-team coach and three-time manager of the senior side, most recently between 2014 and 2017.

During his time as Austria boss, he has an impressive record of 2.03 points per match from 33 games in charge.

All information correct as of midday, June 3, 2021

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