North Macedonia, named Macedonia until 2019, is perhaps the most unlikely participant in Euro 2020. After shocking Germany in World Cup Qualifying in March, North Macedonia has a counter-attacking blueprint to follow to make some noise.
Austria is playing in its third European Championship and will be looking for its first win in the competition.
Game: North Macedonia vs Austria
Location: National Arena, Bucharest, Romania
Time: June 13, 12 p.m. ET
Head to Head
These nations have met twice, both in Euro Qualifiers in 2019. Austria defeated North Macedonia in both matches, scoring six goals and conceding two. Is the third time the charm for Macedonia?
North Macedonia Has Nothing to Lose
The expectations for this North Macedonian team aren’t exactly high. The Macedonians are ranked 62nd in the FIFA World Rankings, so they’re the lowest-ranked team in the tournament and have +50000 odds to win the tournament.
Expect North Macedonia to employ a five-man backl ine and try to defend and counterattack its way into victories like in its signature win against Germany. From a talent standpoint, there will be a wide gap between North Macedonia and all of its group stage opponents but there are some high-level players on its roster.
At the ripe old age of 37, Goran Pandev has played for North Macedonia for two decades and is a seasoned Serie A veteran. The Genoa forward has scored 101 career goals in the top division of Italian Football and is North Macedonia’s all time leading scorer.
Wing back Ezgjan Alioski plays at a blistering pace and turned more than a few heads with his performances for Leeds United this season. Elif Elmas was a consistent performer for Napoli this season and at 21, he should be part of the National team fold for years to come.
Don’t Overlook Austria, but Temper Expectations
Austria has drawn two and lost four games in its Euro history. This represents its best chance to snag a win, in a group that also includes Ukraine and the Netherlands. A win here would go a long way towards qualification for the knockout stages.
Austria, with Bundesliga stars like RB Leipzig midfielder Marcel Sabitzer and Bayern Munich LB David Alaba, has the ability to stay competitive with most everyone. However, Austria often goes through uninspiring stretches of play and lacks creativity in the final third.
The hopes of Austria may very well rest on former Stoke City winger Marko Arnautovic and young Stuttgart forward Saša Kalajdžić. Kalajdžić is an absolute terror for defenders with a 6-foot-7 frame and scored 16 goals in the Bundesliga this season, good for sixth in the league. He has scored a respectable three goals from 7 national team caps thus far and could be a potential breakout star of the tournament.
Austria is the better team on paper but this certainly won’t be an easy game. North Macedonia has lost two of its last 14 games and Austria has gone through a run of bad form.
Alaba, who is rumored to be on his way to Real Madrid, is a world-class player but he has yet to find success with his country. Arnautovic, the top active Austrian scorer, hasn’t scored a goal for his nation since 2019 and Austria has won just one of its five fixtures in 2021.
The solitary win? A 3-1 triumph over the Faroe Islands, a nation with just under 50,000 people. So, I don’t trust Austria as a consistent soccer betting pick throughout this tournament although it has undeniable potential. Bet on North Macedonia to continue its magical run and at least cover the spread.