Austria will feature in the Euro 2020 this year as one of the least favourites despite having a great pool of talent. This will be their third appearance in the Euro finals, a consecutive one after their shock group-stage exit in 2016.
Austria has always been the “nearly” team in major tournaments. Whenever they look in form and ready to challenge, a couple of poor results sabotage their dreams.
✅ #EURO2020 qualification confirmed
✅ Back-to-back UEFA EURO tournaments
🇦🇹 Congratulations, Austria! 🥳 pic.twitter.com/HW9wk5j3S3
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) November 16, 2019
The majority of Austrian players play for good clubs in Europe, mostly in neighbouring European giants Germany. Players like David Alaba and Marcel Sabitzer are considered one of the best in their positions across Europe.
Youngsters such as Marco Friedl, Xaver Schlager, Christoph Baumgartner are highly rated in their age groups and tipped to be Austria’s upcoming golden generation.
The squad quality suggests Austria is not really inept in terms of skill and technical ability but rather tactically and psychologically. This trend looks to change in recent times and Euro 2020 will be their litmus paper test.
AUSTRIA’S PAST WITH THE EUROS
Austria first qualified for the Euro finals in 2008 as hosts of the competition. It is usually a matter of pride to host such an iconic tournament, but Austrian fans were so scared of getting embarrassed that some of them started a petition to withdraw their team from the competition in order to save face.
On expected lines, Austria went out of the tournament in the group stage itself being grouped alongside Germany, Croatia and Poland.
Although, the most memorable moment of Euro 2008 involved Austria, THE Michael Ballack free-kick from long-range that knocked Austria out.
🤔 Most memorable EURO free-kick?
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) March 12, 2021
In the next edition in 2012, Austria failed to qualify for the finals after finishing fourth in their qualification group.
They finally broke the curse in 2016. It was considered the revival of Austria as they won their qualification group undefeated, winning nine out of the ten games played. It was an amazing feat and suddenly Austria was tipped to become the dark horse of the tournament who will go on to upset many giants. Alas, their victory run ended with the qualification round as they failed to register a single win in the group stage.
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) June 22, 2016
A 2-1 loss in the final group game against minnows Iceland saw them crash out of the tournament embarrassingly once again.
At Euro 2020 this year, Austria will mark their third appearance after they finished second in the qualification round and booked their berth in the finals in consecutive editions.
THE GERMAN CONNECTION
Many of Austria’s first-choice team plays in the German Bundesliga including their captain Julian Baumgartlinger who plays as a defensive midfielder for Bayer Leverkusen.
The German top-flight league is one of the biggest football leagues on the planet and has always been a dream destination for most players in Central Europe.
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) November 14, 2017
Some of the Austrians play for the biggest sides in Germany and are arguably the best players in the league in their positions.
The 28-year old is known for his versatility and ability to control any area he occupies on the football pitch. Primarily a centre-back, Alaba currently plays for German and European champions Bayern Munich and is set to leave for Real Madrid in the summer.
It is an honour to win your nation’s footballer of the year award, David Alaba has won it SEVEN times.
🇦🇹 @David_Alaba has won a record-extending 7th Austrian Footballer of the Year award 🏆
💫 Matthias Sindelar, Franz Binder, Josef Bican, Ernst Ocwirk, Ernst Happel, Gerhard Hanappi, Hans Krankl, Herbert Prohaska, Toni Polster… Alaba belongs among the elite of Austrian elite 🔝 pic.twitter.com/P7j4YyfEXE
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) December 22, 2020
Alaba is one of the most decorated players in the world having won 26 trophies in 12 years with Bayern and is not far from adding one more as they close in another Bundesliga.
The Austrian is one of the most talked-about attacking-minded midfielders in Europe these days.
🇦🇹 Marcel Sabitzer = Austria's main creative spark?
Directly involved in 4 goals (⚽️3⃣,🅰️1⃣) in his last 6 league games 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/gkXl85LUny
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) March 22, 2021
Sabitzer went to Germany as a 20-year old and has improved a lot over the years impressing everyone with his all-round gameplay which includes scoring and assisting goals, winning duels, dribbling, creativity and his presence across the pitch.
Currently, at RB Leipzig, Sabitzer is under the radar of many top European sides looking to revamp their midfield.
The young Hoffenheim playmaker in his early 20s is already compared to legendary German midfielder Michael Ballack for his versatility and adaptability at such a young age.
Christoph came to Germany at the young age of 16 and made his senior debut for Hoffenheim at 19 years of age. He is pitched to be one of the brightest upcoming talents in the Bundesliga and already got big clubs chasing him.
The 21-year old has five goal contributions in just eight caps for his senior national side while he touched the 15 G+A mark for his club side this season.
Austria turn it around in Vienna after going a goal down against Faroe Islands 🇦🇹💪
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) March 28, 2021
Some more notable Austrian players in the German Bundesliga include Martin Hinteregger, Sasa Kalajdzic, Aleksandar Dragovic, Xaver Schlager, Guido Burgstaller, Stefan Lainer, Marco Friedl, Stefan Ilsanker among others. The superstars of Austria that ply their trade in the Bundesliga combine to make a solid foundation for some major triumphs at Euro 2020.
WHAT’S THEIR EUROPEAN PLAN?
Austria’s German manager Franco Foda joined the national side in 2017, following the shock Euro 2016 campaign.
Foda likes to play a high pressing counter-attacking brand of football in a 4-2-3-1 formation to cut passing lanes and win back possession in the middle of the pitch. This style helped them qualify for the Euro finals this year but might backfire against technically and physically superior squads.
Austria is drawn with the Netherlands, Ukraine and North Macedonia in the Group C of Euro 2020.
A relatively easier group to qualify from as compared to Euro 2016, Austria is favourites to qualify for the round of 16.
2010 World Cup runner ups and third-placed in 2014, Netherlands was very recently one of the best European sides before it fell flat and failed to qualify for the Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018.
Ukraine and North Macedonia both started their European journeys in the early 1990s and the latter will be playing their first major international tournament as an independent country.
Austria without any doubt is a strong side and do not suffer from a lack of talented players. What they do need though is the right motivation and mentality to make it big this time around.
The central European country has the unusual record of playing the most number of matches at the Euro finals without winning. SIX.
Whether Franco Foda’s resilient men can change that and save their fans from further embarrassment is for the future to tell. Stay tuned with FootTheBall for all the Euro 2020 updates.