Austria finally registered a first European Championship win at the seventh attempt as they ruined North Macedonia's first outing at a major tournament with a 3-1 triumph in Bucharest.

Substitutes Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic both scored in the final 12 minutes to make sure Franco Foda's side claimed all three points from the Group C tussle.

After fellow debutants Finland recorded a 1-0 triumph over Denmark on Saturday, North Macedonia had appeared on course to mark their maiden appearance with a point against opponents who beat them twice in qualifying.

Having struck in the second leg to see off Georgia in the play-offs and secure a spot at Euro 2020, Goran Pandev became the second oldest scorer in the competition's history when he capitalised on an unexpected opportunity to tap in an equaliser.

Goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann failed to hold on when sliding out to grab the ball ahead of Aleksandar Trajkovski, a three-way collision also involving David Alaba allowing the ever-alert Pandev to convert into an unguarded net with his team's first attempt.

Austria had opened the scoring with an eye-catching goal, Marcel Sabitzer's raking pass finding the advancing Stefan Lainer, who showed impressive attacking instincts for a defender with a side-footed volley from a tight angle that flashed beyond Stole Dimitrievski.

There was not so much to admire about the build-up play and finish for North Macedonia's equaliser, not that they cared too much.

Arnautovic was summoned from the bench early in the second half to try and inspire Austria, though it was fellow replacement Gregoritsch who scored the game's crucial third goal, the Augsburg forward making a near-post run to apply the finishing touch to Alaba's inviting cross from the left flank. 
 
Any hope of a tiring North Macedonia rallying for a second time disappeared when Arnautovic went clean through in the 89th minute, calmly rounding Dimitrievski to wrap up the victory. 

What's next?

Both teams are back in action on Thursday. North Macedonia will be remaining in Bucharest for their second fixture, against Ukraine. Austria, meanwhile, move on to Amsterdam to take on the Netherlands.

Austria boss Franco Foda has a selection dilemma in Bucharest as he bids to deliver the country's first ever win at the European Championship.

No team have played more games at the Euros without earning at least one win than Austria, who have fallen short in all six of their past finals fixtures.

The Group C clash with North Macedonia on Sunday is one in which many expect Austria to prevail, but Foda must decide whether Marko Arnautovic, the team's star forward, starts the match.

Arnautovic has indicated he feels ready for a pivotal role after recovering from a thigh injury, but there is no certainty the 32-year-old will play from the start.

The former West Ham man, now with Shanghai Port, played half an hour for Austria in a friendly against Slovakia last Sunday but Foda may prefer a match-fit Sasa Kalajdzic to lead his attack.

Foda said in a pre-game news conference: "Ultimately, I have to make the decision about whether Marko is ready for 90 minutes or not."

A fit and firing Arnautovic's value to his country is obvious, having been directly involved in seven goals in his eight appearances during the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign (six goals, one assist).

Foda also kept North Macedonia guessing about where David Alaba will feature, the erstwhile Bayern Munich star and new Real Madrid recruit being a top performer both in defence and midfield.

"We have decided where he will play," Foda said, but gave no detail about that decision.

The Austria coach added: "We can make history, and we want to. We absolutely want to win and start the European Championship with a positive result. I have a good feeling."

North Macedonia are making their big-tournament debut as an independent nation and proud captain Goran Pandev said: "Believe that we are ready and we will do our best to make the public and the Macedonian people happy again."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Austria - Marcel Sabitzer

Sabitzer is coming off a strong season in the German Bundesliga with RB Leipzig and has been linked with clubs including Roma and Arsenal. Austria have plenty of decent pedigree in their squad, but the man who scored eight goals and had three assists on league duty for his club side last term, creating 30 chances in all, is one of a handful with real star quality.

 

North Macedonia - Goran Pandev

At the age of 37, Pandev leads his country on the big stage, and what a moment it will be for him. A star forward in Serie A for over 15 years, notably with Lazio, Inter, Napoli and Genoa, Pandev may be past his prime but he will hope to lead by example at this tournament.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- These teams have only played each other twice before – both times in qualifying for this tournament – with Austria winning those matches 4-1 and 2-1.

- Including the play-off rounds, North Macedonia won each of their final three games in Euro 2020 qualifying – as many as they had won in their previous nine games of the qualifying campaign beforehand (D2 L4).

- Austria have yet to reach the knockout stages or even win a single game at the European Championships (D2 L4).

- Austria have won only one of their last 15 games at major tournaments (D5 L9 – World Cups and Euros), a 2-1 victory against United States in the group phase of the 1990 World Cup. They last reached the knockout stages of a major tournament at the 1954 World Cup, finishing third.

- Austria have scored only two goals in their six games at the European Championship finals; one of them was a penalty (Ivica Vastic vs Poland, Euro 2008). They have never been ahead at any point in those six games.

- North Macedonia's 1.25 goals scored per game during Euro 2020 qualifiers (15 in 12 games) was the joint-lowest average of any team to have qualified for the finals, alongside Wales.

Trent Alexander-Arnold's participation in Euro 2020 appears to be in huge doubt after the England full-back sustained an apparent muscular injury against Austria.

England won 1-0 on Wednesday thanks to Bukayo Saka's first international goal, but a late injury for Alexander-Arnold may have spoiled the night.

Alexander-Arnold was left out of a previous England squad in March, but has made the 26-man cut for Euro 2020, with Gareth Southgate taking four right-backs.

Two of those right-backs – Kyle Walker and Reece James – were unavailable in Middlesbrough following their Champions League final exploits, so the Liverpool star got the nod.

However, in the closing stages, Alexander-Arnold pulled up after making a clearance with his left foot, and appeared to be clutching his thigh as he limped off the pitch, with England's medical staff then having to help him walk around the sidelines to the tunnel.

With England kicking-off their campaign against Croatia on June 13, Alexander-Arnold's prospects do not look good, but Southgate, who also has concerns over the fitness of Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire, will wait for a full diagnosis before making a decision on whether to replace the 22-year-old.

"We're going to have a look. It's obviously not good to see him come off in the way he did. We'll just have to assess him over the next 24 hours," he told ITV Sport.

"I think thigh, but the medical team are still assessing it really. We just have to see, it's not a good sign to see him have to walk off as he did, but we'll know more in the next 24, 48 hours.

"Let's see how Trent is, and we'll go from there. We don't know the full extent, so the last thing you want is to have to see him come off in the way he did."

Another player to provide something of a scare to England fans might have been Jack Grealish. 

The Aston Villa talisman missed a large chunk of the Premier League run-in due to an injury, but played over an hour before being replaced by debutant Ben White.

Grealish was seen with an ice pack on his right shin as he watched on from the stands, but the 25-year-old insisted he is fit.

"I've had an injury recently so to get 70 minutes under my belt, I'm glad," he explained to ITV Sport.

"It's not shin splints, actually, it's different to that, it's like a bit of stress on my shin, a different type of injury.

"I'm not concerned, I'm still aware of it, need to keep on top of it, do whatever I can to heal it after playing in these games, so that's why the ice was on."

Trent Alexander-Arnold suffered a late injury as England stepped up Euro 2020 preparations with a 1-0 win over Austria that was secured by Bukayo Saka's first senior international goal.

Manager Gareth Southgate was shorn of the Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United players likely to be key at the upcoming tournament, and he fielded a relatively inexperienced team for Wednesday's friendly in Middlesbrough.

It was one of the youngsters to have made the final 26-man squad who proved decisive, Arsenal winger Saka tucking into an empty net early in the second half to mark his fifth Three Lions appearance with a maiden goal.

Yet the biggest moment came late on, when Alexander-Arnold – whose inclusion in the squad has been a hot topic – suffered an apparent muscular injury in inconspicuous circumstances, which will surely cast doubt over his availability for the tournament.

The two players in Reggae Boyz delegation who tested positive for the Covid-19 virus have now tested negative. However, two other players including one who is based in England have tested positive and have been isolated 48 hours before they face off against the United States in an international friendly.

According to a statement from the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), another test was done today Tuesday, March 23 “as per UEFA match day minus two protocol”.

 Those results will be available tomorrow.

“The protocols are being strictly followed in the hotel and every individual is constantly reminded of his responsibility by the team medical personnel and team manager Roy Simpson,” the JFF said.

“The team now has a physiotherapist in the form of Nico Reishofer, an Austrian. The first training session in Austria was scheduled for 6 pm today.

 

Two members of the Reggae Boyz delegation in Austria for their international friendly against the United States on Thursday have tested positive for the Covid-19 virus, the Jamaica Football Federation announced today.

The members of the delegation were tested when they arrived in Austria earlier today.

The players have been isolation in their hotel rooms in keeping with UEFA protocols while they await another test before any activity can be initiated.  All the players subsequently took a PCR Covid-19 test with the results due 12 hours later.

Ten England-based players including Adrian Mariappa and Michael Hector, are among those who are now in Austria.

 

 Former Wimbledon FC defender, Andy Clement, will serve as a physical trainer for the Jamaica national team ahead of its friendly international against the United States in Austria next Thursday.

Clement, who currently plies his trade with Mount Pleasant football club, will be forced to stand in after both the national team's regular trainers Lamar Morgan and Jason Henry did not make the tour.  Henry was not able to travel with the team after reportedly not managing to secure a contract in time.

Clement was suited for the job as being an Englishman he does not need a Schengen visa to enter Europe.  The team was originally expected to depart the island for the US this weekend, after completing a four-day training camp at the Horace Burrell Academy.

However, the JFF was forced to quickly alter plans after it was discovered that applications for travel to Austria had to be done in person at the current time.  The delegation, as a result, hastily departed the island on Tuesday in order to meet a Wednesday morning appointment for Schengen visas at the Austrian Embassy, in the United States.  The group was as a result without both a physical trainer and physiotherapist, important members of the support staff.

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