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Alaba delighted to take first step as Austria captain shines in historic win

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 13 Jun 2021

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David Alaba was pleased with the character shown by Austria after they produced a strong second-half display to beat North Macedonia – but promised it was just the start for them at Euro 2020.

Late goals from substitutes Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic secured a 3-1 result against North Macedonia in Bucharest, Austria’s first win at a European Championships.

Indeed, they had not triumphed at a major tournament since the 1990 World Cup, a barren run that appeared set to continue when Goran Pandev capitalised on a loose ball to cancel out Stefan Lainer’s volleyed opener in the Group C contest.

Yet Austria dominated for long spells after the break and eventually found a way through, Alaba providing an inviting cross for Gregoritsch to put Austria back ahead.

“We achieved our first goal with these three points, we wanted to get this victory, but we have to stay calm and focus on our next match,” Alaba told the media.

“We are not happy just with the three points. This was our first goal we wanted to achieve, now we want to continue. Of course we want to impose our game and continue to collect points, that’s our target.

“This shows our character and personality, we want to continue on this path.”

He added: “At half-time, we said to each other that we had to play faster, that we wanted to control the match.

“In the second half, we had some spells where we really put the foot down, where we lost the ball and directly tried to get it back. That is what we talked about at half-time, that we wanted the three points.

“You could see how hungry and willing we were. We wanted to show our character, our team spirit on the pitch – I think we managed to do that.”

Alaba surprisingly lined up at the heart of a back three, though popped up on the left flank to provide the assist for Gregoritsch’s crucial goal.

Austria’s captain – who has ended his long association with Bayern Munich by joining Real Madrid on a free transfer – completed 93 of his 99 attempted passes in the game, a new record for his country in a European Championship fixture.

Head coach Franco Foda was delighted with Alaba’s impact on proceedings, though made clear the system could change when they go up against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Thursday.

“He played in this position for Bayern a lot, we just switched to a back three. At Bayern he also played that way, so that’s no problem for him,” Foda said.

“In the second half, he helped us and supported us in attack, especially on the left. This was his duty and I’m very happy with his 90 minutes.

“He organised our defensive work well, talked a lot with his team-mates and this is important. In the second half, he helped us in terms of attacking.”

Arnautovic did not start having gone into the tournament recovering from an injury, though he made an impact off the bench by scoring Austria’s third goal in the 89th minute.

On his compatriot, Alaba said: “We players always want to play, but we can see what character he has. He came on and gave 100 per cent straight away. He’s a very important player for us, both on and off the pitch. We know what he means to us.”

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