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Preview: Austria vs. North Macedonia - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's European Championship clash between Austria and North Macedonia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Austria will be looking to claim their first ever victory at the European Championships, when they take on tournament debutants North Macedonia in their Group C opener in Bucharest on Sunday evening.

Both nations are already familiar with one another, having locked horns twice during their respective qualification campaigns, with the Austrians winning on both occasions.


Match preview

Austria's Christoph Baumgartner celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on March 28, 2021© Reuters

Austria will be appearing in just their third ever European Championships this summer and will be hoping to improve on their previous two attempts to escape the group stage.

Das Team automatically qualified as co-hosts in 2008 along with Switzerland and then advanced from the qualifiers in 2016. However, in both major tournaments, they were eliminated in the group stage, losing two and drawing one of their three matches, meaning they are yet to win a single game at the finals.

Franco Foda – who will be leading the Austrian side at his first major tournament as a manager, after succeeding Marcel Koller in 2018 – believes that his squad have what it takes to reach the knockout rounds, although their form needs to improve if they are to secure a top-two place, or one of the four best third-placed spots.

Austria head into Sunday's opener with North Macedonia having failed to score or win any of their last three international games; a 4-0 thrashing by Denmark was followed by a narrow 1-0 defeat to England and a goalless draw with Slovakia in their final warm-up match last week.

Nevertheless, Das Team – who claimed victories in both of their fixtures against North Macedonia during the qualifiers, winning by an aggregate of 6-2 – will feel that this weekend's encounter is their most realistic chance to claim three points in Group C.

North Macedonia coach Igor Angelovski celebrates with players after qualifying for Euro 2020 in November 2020© Reuters

For the first time in their 27-year history, North Macedonia will be taking part in a major tournament this summer when they compete on Europe's biggest stage.

Ranked 62nd in the world by FIFA – the lowest of any side competing at Euro 2020 – few are predicting that the Red Lynxes will progress from the group stage, however head coach Igor Angelovski is keen to prove his side are not just here to make up the numbers.

North Macedonia's preparations for this tournament have been strong, losing only two of their last 10 international matches across all competitions, and winning three of their last four, scoring 12 goals in the process.

A convincing 5-0 World Cup qualifier victory against European minnows Liechtenstein was shortly followed by a historic triumph away at four-time world champions and three-time European victors Germany, with Napoli's Eljif Elmas scoring a dramatic 85th minute winner.

The Red Lynxes extended their unbeaten run to four matches, with a 1-1 draw against Slovenia and then a 4-0 victory at home to Kazakhstan in their final two warm-up games earlier this month.

North Macedonia are set to battle with both Austria and Ukraine for second place, with the Netherlands expected to top Group C. Victory on Sunday would be one of many upsets they will look to cause this summer, as they embark on their quest to prove the doubters wrong and advance from the group stage.

Austria form (all competitions):
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • D

North Macedonia form (all competitions):
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W


Team News

Austria manager Franco Foda and Marko Arnautovic on June 6, 2021© Reuters

Austria had injury concerns for three key players – captain Julian Baumgartlinger, forward Marko Arnautovic and midfielder Christoph Baumgartner – heading into their final two warm-up matches earlier this month, though all three are set to be in contention to feature this weekend.

Baumgartlinger, who suffered a cruciate ligament injury playing for Bayer Leverkusen in January, was able to play the final nine minutes against England, but the 33-year-old is unlikely to start in midfield, with Florian Grillitsch expected to get the nod.

Arnautovic, who had recently been suffering with a thigh strain, played the final 30 minutes against Slovakia, though the former West Ham United forward is not likely to start ahead of target man Sasa Kalajdzic, who scored 16 goals in the Bundesliga for Stuttgart last season.

Meanwhile, Hoffenheim's Baumgartner seems to have recovered from an ankle problem, having started both warm-up games, and is set to play on the left-wing, with one of Alessandro Schopf, Valentino Lazaro or Louis Schaub set to play on the opposite flank.

Foda will have to decide whether to play star man David Alaba in defence or midfield, but with seemingly weaker opposition to face on Sunday, the 29-year-old may be given a role in central midfield.

As for North Macedonia, Angelovski is expected to stick with a 3-5-2 formation, which will likely see Darko Velkovski, Visar Musilu and Kire Ristevski start in the back three.

Width in the team is set be provided by left wing-back Ezgjan Alioski, who played 36 times in the Premier League for Leeds United last season, while Stefan Ristovski could feature on the opposite flank.

Elmas could be joined in central midfield by Arijan Ademi and Boban Nikolov, although both Ferhan Hasani and Enis Bardhi will be hoping to force their way into the first XI.

Aleksandar Trajkovski – who has scored four goals in his last five international matches – is set to be joined up front by 37-year-old forward and captain Goran Pandev, who is the nation's most capped player (119) and their all-time leading goalscorer with 37 strikes to his name.

Austria possible starting lineup:
Bachmann; Lainer, Dragovic, Hinteregger, Friedl; Grillitsch, Alaba; Lazaro, Sabitzer, Baumgartner; Kalajdzic

North Macedonia possible starting lineup:
Dimitrievski; Velkovski, Musliu, Ristevski; Ristovski, Nikolov, Ademi, Elmas, Alioski; Pandev, Trajkovski


SM words green background

We say: Austria 2-1 North Macedonia

Both nations will be aware that claiming three points on Sunday would provide a massive boost in their quest to secure at least one of the four best third-place positions up for grabs or even a place in the top two in Group C.

North Macedonia will be a threat going forward and did score in both of their previous meetings with Austria, but we feel that Foda's side will have just enough to secure a narrow victory in Bucharest.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data


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How you voted: Austria vs N. Macedonia

Austria
67.0%
Draw
17.5%
North Macedonia
15.5%
561
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Austria's Christoph Baumgartner celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on March 28, 2021
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