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.
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.
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 ughearlier 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):
North Macedonia form (all competitions):