Austria vs North Macedonia – Euro 2020 Preview
Austria have yet to win a European championship game, and have not advanced from the group stage of a major tournament since the 1982 World Cup. North Macedonia gained independence in 1991 and this is their first ever major international tournament. In February 2019 they changed their name from “The Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia” to “The Republic Of North Macedonia”. In qualifying they finished above Slovenia thanks to a better H2H record, and due to their Nations League exploits of topping League D Group 4, they moved into the play-off qualification phase. They beat Kosovo 2-1 in the semi-finals and then Georgia 1-0 in the final to qualify for their first ever major tournament. A recent 2-1 win over Germany in world cup qualifiers was by far their biggest result to date, and adds some encouragement and hope that they could surprise a few in this tournament.
The two sides met in qualifying with Austria winning both times, 4-1 and 2-1. There will be some familiar names on show for both sides, with North Macedonia having veteran Goran Pandev who has played for Inter, Lazio, Napoli, Galatasaray and currently Genoa. Along with Leeds United player Ezgjan Alioski. Former West Ham man Marko Arnautovic scored 6 times in qualifying for Austria, but their main man would have to be David Alaba (Formerly of Bayern Munich who has just signed for Real Madrid) he is best known as a defender but with his country he is often used in a more attacking role and pretty much has the freedom to move where he chooses.
North Macedonia have proven on their day that they can beat the worlds best, and Austria are hardly a top team that you would bank your life on. The fact that both meetings between these two sides in qualifying produced a combined total of 8 goals, is encouraging and offers hope of this being quite an open and attacking game. I see Austria just doing enough to get the win with them coming out 2-1 or 3-1 winners in what will be a physical and hopefully entertaining game.
The referee for this game is Andreas Ekberg. This season he has taken charge of 10 games, giving 31 yellow cards and 2 red cards, for an average of 3.10 yellow cards per game and 0.20 red cards per game. In his career he has taken charge of 67 games, giving 199 yellow cards and 16 red cards, for an average of 2.97 yellow cards per game and 0.24 red cards per game.