For Scotland fans, Austria are relatively fresh in the minds following the 2-2 draw in World Cup Qualifying back in March. I can’t say I was overly impressed and they did look a team of similar quality to Scotland – make of that what you will. However, they do have one or two players to look out for; namely David Alaba (now Real Madrid) and Sasa Kalajdzic (Stuttgart) whom the Austria team will rely upon. Also look out for one Marko Arnautovic (Shanghai Port) who might make a subdued return to the European football scene.
In a way Austria have gotten quite lucky in Group C. The Netherlands have question marks still hanging over them, Ukraine are on a par, and North Macedonia are a complete unknown. The two host cities of Amsterdam and Bucharest are also not as extreme as some of the other combinations either. In other words don’t be surprised if Austria do qualify and don’t be surprised if they’re heading home early.
Squad (Final 26)
Goalkeepers: Daniel Bachmann (Watford), Pavao Pervan (Wolfsburg), Alexander Schlager (LASK)
Defenders: David Alaba (Bayern), Aleksandar Dragović (Leverkusen), Marco Friedl (Werder Bremen), Martin Hinteregger (Frankfurt), Stefan Lainer (Mönchengladbach), Philipp Lienhart (Freiburg), Stefan Posch (Hoffenheim), Christopher Trimmel (Union Berlin), Andreas Ulmer (Salzburg)
Midfielders: Julian Baumgartlinger (Leverkusen), Christoph Baumgartner (Hoffenheim), Florian Grillitsch (Hoffenheim), Stefan Ilsanker (Frankfurt), Konrad Laimer (Leipzig), Valentino Lazaro (Internazionale), Marcel Sabitzer (Leipzig), Louis Schaub (Luzern), Xaver Schlager (Wolfsburg), Alessandro Schöpf (Schalke)
Forwards: Marko Arnautović (Shanghai Port), Michael Gregoritsch (Augsburg), Sasa Kalajdzic (Stuttgart), Karim Onisiwo (Mainz)
I wonder if it’s more a sigh of relief more than anything else that The Netherlands have qualified for a tournament again. Missing out on Euro 2016 and then the 2018 World Cup – the first time since the 1960s The Netherlands had missed two consecutive tournaments – was a shock to most. It certainly mirrored a period where the Dutch squad was going through a changing of the guard with the likes of Robben, Huntelaar , Van Persie, Sneijder, and Dirk Kuyt not long falling out the International fold after the 2014 World Cup.
However, there’s a new crop of Dutch Internationalists which do make you a little excited! Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus) and Donny van de Beek (Manchester United) are destined to be the faces of the Dutch National Team for years to come. Van Dijk (Liverpool) desperately misses out, however, due to injury and that’s a huge blow. In fact just that one omission puts a slight question mark over the side. Luuk de Jong (Sevilla), and Memphis Depay (Lyon) are therefore seen as the senior players. I’m on the fence all things considered. The Netherlands will probably progress – all 3 games are being played in Amsterdam – but I don’t think they’ll go much further than that.
Squad (Final 26)
Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (Valencia), Tim Krul (Norwich), Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax)
Defenders: Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace), Nathan Aké (Manchester City), Daley Blind (Ajax), Denzel Dumfries (PSV), Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus), Jurriën Timber (Ajax), Joël Veltman (Brighton), Stefan de Vrij (Inter Milan), Owen Wijndal (AZ)
Midfielders: Donny van de Beek (Manchester United), Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Davy Klaassen (Ajax), Teun Koopmeiners (AZ), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)
Forwards: Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord), Cody Gakpo (PSV), Luuk de Jong (Sevilla), Donyell Malen (PSV Eindhoven), Memphis Depay (Lyon), Quincy Promes (Spartak Moskva), Wout Weghorst (Wolfsburg)
As statements go, Ukraine’s decision to put the full national border on their shirts is up there as the most contentious. Showing the annexed Crimea and Donbas regions. It doesn’t particularly irk 22 of their competitors but it’s properly rattled Russia. Just a good a job there’s almost no possible permutation that can see the pair meet until the semi-finals (I think).
Now that my recent searches are currently pinging round The Kremlin, let’s look at the Ukrainian Squad. They breezed through the qualifiers with 6W, 2D, 0D in a group that included Portugal and Serbia. However, the form since then has been poor. 3 draws in the World Cup Qualifiers – all 1-1 against France, Kazakhstan, and Finland – doesn’t mirror their Euro 2020 Qualifying form. But, the two warm-ups against Northern Ireland and Cyprus they have looked better. Because the group is much of a muchness I wouldn’t be shocked to see Ukraine through to the final 16.
Squad (Final 26)
Goalkeepers: Georgiy Bushchan (Dynamo Kyiv), Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Anatolii Trubin (Shakhtar Donetsk)
Defenders: Oleksandr Karavaev (Dynamo Kyiv), Serhiy Kryvtsov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Mykola Matviyenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), Vitaliy Mykolenko (Dynamo Kyiv), Denys Popov (Dynamo Kyiv), Eduard Sobol (Club Brugge), Oleksandr Tymchyk (Dynamo Kyiv), Illia Zabarnyi (Dynamo Kyiv), Oleksandr Zinchenko (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Roman Bezus (Gent), Yevhen Makarenko (Kortrijk), Ruslan Malinovskyi (Atalanta), Marlos (Shakhtar Donetsk), Mykola Shaparenko (Dynamo Kyiv), Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), Heorhii Sudakov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Serhiy Sydorchuk (Dynamo Kyiv), Viktor Tsygankov (Dynamo Kyiv)
Forwards: Artem Besedin (Dynamo Kyiv), Artem Dovbyk (Dnipro-1), Roman Yaremchuk (Gent), Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham), Oleksandr Zubkov (Ferencváros)
It would be easy to write North Macedonia off straight away. A small Eastern European nation with little independent footballing history. A nation ranked 62nd in the world. A goalkeeper who plays in the 2nd tier of Spanish football with Rayo Vallecano. Superficially speaking, North Macedonia could be the weakest team at tournament. They could well be, but do not discount their incredible 2-1 win away to Germany at the end of March. That puts a question mark over everything else.
Of course, there will probably be an over-reliance on one Goran Pandev (Genoa). But he will be supported by Leeds wing-back Ezgjan Alioski and young Napoli midfielder Eljif Elmas. So I’m not sure what to make of North Macedonia. There’s always a nation that causes some upsets along the way at a tournament – could it be North Macedonia? Ehm probably not because I want it to be Scotland!
Squad (Final 26)
Goalkeepers: Stole Dimitrievski (Rayo Vallecano), Risto Jankov (Rabotnicki), Damjan Siskovski (Doxa Katokopia)
Defenders: Egzijan Alioski (Leeds), Egzon Bejtulai (Shkëndija), Visar Musliu (Fehérvár), Kire Ristevski (Újpest), Stefan Ristovski (Dinamo Zagreb), Darko Velkovski (Rijeka), Gjoko Zajkov (Charleroi)
Midfielders: Arijan Ademi (Dinamo Zagreb), Enis Bardi (Levante), Darko Churlinov (Stuttgart), Eljif Elmas (Napoli), Feran Hasani (Partizani), Tihomir Kostadinov (Ružomberok), Boban Nikolov (Lecce), Milan Ristovski (Spartak Trnava), Stefan Spirovski (AEK Larnaca)
Forwards: Daniel Avramovski (Kayserispor), Goran Pandev (Genoa), Marjan Radeski (Akademija Pandev), Vlatko Stojanovski (Chambly), Aleksandar Trajkovski (Mallorca), Ivan Tričkovski (AEK Larnaca), Krste Velkovski (Sarajevo)
This is a really tough group to predict. And now that I’ve said that it’ll be the most clear-cut of them all! Game 1 has Austria play North Macedonia in Bucharest and Netherlands host Ukraine in Amsterdam. I’d say an Austria win and Netherlands/Ukraine to draw. Ukraine will then defeat North Macedonia in Bucharest in Game 2 while again Netherlands will draw with Austria in Amsterdam.
Which means it’s all to play for going into Game 3. North Macedonia finish up in Amsterdam to play Netherlands and Ukraine v Austria takes place in Bucharest. Netherlands should get their first win of the tournament – albeit the pressure will be significant – which will take them to 5 points and possibly finish top. Top spot will be dependent on whether there’s a winner between Ukraine and Austria. Either way, it’s another Group where 3 teams could progress.