David Alaba’s most important audition yet for a midfield role at Bayern Munich was ruined on Tuesday, thanks in no small part to one of the men deemed least likely to score at Euro 2016.
Alaba operates at left-back for his club but is believed to covet the same remit in the centre of the field he fulfils with such excellence for Marcel Koller’s Austrian side, despite protestations to the contrary upon signing a contract extension through to the end of June 2021.
Incoming Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti has already inflicted a blow to those hopes, revealing he intends to continue picking the energetic and ambitious star as a fullback.
And if Alaba is to have any chance of changing the Italian’s mind, he needs to excel at the European Championship, a tournament his talented national team are considered among the outsiders to win.
The five-time Austrian Player of the Year was, at least initially, the central figure right from kick-off against Hungary, hitting the post from 25 yards out with less than a minute on the clock.
He went close again 10 minutes later, ghosting into the area and seeing a shot saved by Gabor Kiraly.
Austria did not have it all their own way, though, their less vaunted neighbours holding their own in a physically demanding encounter.
Worryingly for Alaba, his influence faded somewhat as Hungary grew in composure and ambition.
Just past the hour mark, a brilliant exchange of passes put in Adam Szalai to open the scoring – something he did not manage to do throughout the whole of last season in the Bundesliga.
The 28-year-old experienced a woeful drought, watching on as Alaba lifted the title for Bayern, while Hannover, where Szalai spent the second half of the campaign on loan from Hoffenheim, were relegated.
The tables were turned in Bordeaux on Tuesday, though.
And for a man who had been suffering through one of the worst dry spells of his career, it was a superb goal, his first since December 2014 for club or country.
Austria’s hopes were not helped by the somewhat harsh red card shown to Aleksandar Dragovic for a second yellow card four minutes after going behind, Zoltan Stieber sealing a 2-0 win for the underdogs with an exquisite chip to complete a smart counterattack in the final minutes.
And while Alaba had persisted valiantly in his attempts to pull the strings in an energetic, box-to-box role, it will take considerably more than a merely acceptable performance in an unexpected defeat to advance his claims back at Allianz Arena.
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