Austria headed into today’s final Group C match against Ukraine needing a win to guarantee themselves qualification into the next round. A draw, theoretically, could’ve been enough too — but given that Ukraine held the tie-breaker on goal-differential, the Austrians would’ve wanted to avoid tieing this game as it would mean they’d be relying on being one of the top third-place teams in the Euros.
Franco Foda’s men, captained by Real Madrid defender David Alaba, got the job done.
Alaba played as a left-back in Foda’s 4-2-3-1 scheme. He was heavily involved, as is usually the case, in Austria’s build-up. The Austrians funnelled possession through him, and even though Alaba did not need to join the attack much — often playing a conservative role where he could be available to defend in transition — he was an influential player offensively.
Alaba did get forward on several sequences where he’d bomb forward on a vertical pass-and-move combination. He was also Austria’s chief set-piece taker — taking both in-swinging and out-swinging free-kicks (as well as hitting multiple crosses) with both feet. Those balls were dangerous, and he ended up finding an assist through one of his corners in the first half:
David Alaba delivers a perfect corner and Christoph Baumgartner finishes it off! Austria takes a crucial 1-0 lead with a trip to the knockout stage on the line! #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/wUudjO0GT3— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 21, 2021
That was an awesome finish by Christoph Baumgartner — a worthy goal to cap Alaba’s delicious corner kick.
Defensively, Alaba was involved in Austria’s counter-pressing which stifled Ukraine’s build-up. But Alaba was also poor tracking runners, even when he was in positions to do better.
To be sure, Alaba had little help defensive from Florian Grillitsch and Baumgartner on that side, both of whom were late on their coverage, but Alaba also struggled on his own, and gave lots of space to Andriy Yarmalenko on his side. Lucky for him and Austria, there wasn’t much efficiency from Ukraine in either the build-up phase nor the attacking phase, and Yarmlenko struggled exploiting what he was given.
Alaba finished the game with 81 touches, a game-high four key passes (all of which came in the first half), and 14 crosses (11 of which came in the first half). His long-balls (0/5 completed) and prolific crosses were part of the reason he had just 73% passing accuracy.
Thanks to his performance today, Austria (and with it another Madridista) have advanced to the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.