World Class Glimpses Give Austria the Edge Over North Macedonia

Group C of Euro 2020 got underway on a rainy Sunday evening in Bucharest. Two of the tournament’s expected minnows – Austria and North Macedonia – set up with three vital points at stake. For the neutral supporters, it was an opportunity to view a handful of genuine stars (David Alaba or Goran Pandev), and to scout some hot prospects (Christoph Baumgartner or Elif Elmas). For supporters back home, however, it was a rare opportunity to watch their national teams operating on one of the biggest stages.

In spite of their relative novice status to matches of this importance, both sets of players looked confident. North Macedonia, especially, with a squad made of footballers representing teams like Leeds, Napoli, or Genoa, began the match in an aggressive fashion, led by the eternal Goran Pandev – who made his debut in an international tournament with his home country at the age of 38!

Austria’s manager Franco Foda adopted a guarded 3-1-4-2 formation with Marcel Sabitzer looking to direct play through the center of the pitch. North Macedonia, on the other hand, opted for a 5-3-2 with most attacks directed through the left flank with Ezgjan Alioski acting almost as a wide playmaker.

Against the trend of play, RB Leipzig midfielder Marcel Sabitzer’s excellent direct pass in the 17th minute found Stefan Lainer, who rounded off the attack from mere meters of the net.

In the 28th minute, a series of comic Austrian errors, courtesy of Martin Hinterreger and Daniel Bachmann, helped legendary striker Goran Pandev push the ball past an undefended goal line.

The two quick goals seemed to energize both sides. The fighting spirit, however, translated more into on-field clashes than goalscoring chances. In the 52nd minute, Alioski luckily avoided a red card for a nasty challenge.

On 62 minutes, North Macedonia’s counterattack saw Elmas put the ball dangerously in the area, but Pandev failed to lob Bachmann.

Impact-sub Marko Arnautovic’s dinked header towards Michael Gregoritsch nearly provided Austria the advantage. The striker would, however, get a redo in the 77th minute as future Real Madrid wing-back David Alaba’s perfect cross was headed home to put Austria ahead.

With little left on the clock, Arnautovic got his own name on the scoresheet, taking advantage of some over-enthusiastic yet poor Macedonian defending.

The Austrians justly earned their very first victory in an international tournament since a long time. North Macedonia will meanwhile look fondly on their courageous display. Their remaining two fixtures against Ukraine and the Netherlands leave them little hopes of qualification. Still, neutral fans will expect that their zest-filled football gets carried out through to their next games.


June 13, 2021 – European Championship 2020 Group C

SCORERS: 18′ Lainer (A), 28′ Pandev (M), 77′ Gregoritsch (A), 89′ Arnautovic (A)

AUSTRIA (4-4-1-1): Bachmann; Lainer, Dragovic (46′ Lienhart), Hinteregger, Ulmer; Baumgartner (58′ Gregoritsch), Laimer (93’ Baumgartlinger), Schlager, Alaba; Sabitzer; Kalajdzic (58′ Arnautovic) (Schlager, Pervan, Ilsanker, Arnautovic, Grillitsch, Gregoritsch, Baumgartlinger, Lienhart, Trimmel, Schaub, Schopf, Lazaro) Coach: Foda
NORTH MACEDONIA (3-5-2): Dimitrievski; Nikolov (63′ Bejtulai), Ristovski, Velkovski, Musliu (85′ Ristovski), Alioski; Bardi (82′ Trickovski), Ademi, Elmas; Trajkovski (63′ Kostadinov), Pandev (Jankov, Siskovski, Bejtulai, Ristevski, Trickovski, Hasani, Kostadinov, Velkovski, Spirovski, Avramovski, Churlinov, Ristovski) Coach: Angelovski

REFEREE: Ekberg (Sweden)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Lainer (A), Trajkovski, Alioski (M)