A loss of points on Friday at the Happel Stadium would have lost the chance of winning the Nations-League group, but the ÖFB team could take first place on their own, move up in League A and keep the play-off back door open for an EM-2020 ticket.

Vienna – The Nations-League match against Northern Ireland was stamped by an Austrian football team player who had already been on everyone’s lips. Marko Arnautovic scored the goal for the 1-0 victory in the Vienna Happel Stadium on Friday and made his personal statement in the discussion about the captain’s role.

The fuss about the alleged scepticism of some ÖFB board members regarding the suitability of the West-Ham professional as a captain left the Viennese cold anyway. “That kept everyone busy, but not me,” explained Arnautovic.

The 29-year-old didn’t find out about his new nomination as captain from team boss Franco Foda until Friday. “It was an honor for me again. Arnautovic had already worn the loop a month ago at the 0:1 in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Point set behind all that”

His nightly meeting with Bosnian star Edin Dzeko, recorded in an Instagram posting afterwards, is said to have caused displeasure in certain circles. “I think I did my best and put the dot behind it all,” said Arnautovic.

He didn’t want to describe his goal as a particularly delightful moment. “It doesn’t matter if it was emotional, it’s indifferent. I was happy that I scored the goal, I was happy for the team, because they really worked very hard”. He didn’t feel any special satisfaction. “I’ve already done enough good in the national team, I don’t need to prove anything anymore.

However, the reaction immediately after the goal suggested that his 20th goal in the 75th international might have been a special one for him. Arnautovic tore the ribbon from his upper arm and pointed it towards the VIP and media stands. He left open whom this gesture was meant for. “The grandstand was full, choose one,” the England Legionnaire said to the journalists.

Nations League jetspin

Will Grigg Honours

Club
Brentford

  • Football League One runner-up: 2013–14

Milton Keynes Dons

  • Football League One runner-up: 2014–15

Wigan Athletic

  • Football League One: 2015–16 , 2017–18

Individual

  • PFA Team of the Year: 2015–16 League One, 2017–18 League One
  • PFA Fans’ Player of the Year: 2015–16 League One
  • Walsall Player of the Season: 2012–13
  • Walsall Players’ Player of the Season: 2012–13
  • Football League One Player of the Month: April 2016, April 2018

Pain does not stop Arnautovic

With so much adrenaline, the knee problems faded into the background. “I feel like I’m 20, no matter how much pain I have. I have pain, I have knee problems, but it doesn’t stop me.”

However, it cannot be ruled out that Arnautovic will leave the ÖFB camp earlier in order to protect the Premier League match against Tottenham on Saturday. In his place Sebastian Prödl could act as captain in the test match against Denmark in Herning on Tuesday.

The Styrian was pleased with Arnautovic: “Our match plan had the content that Marko makes the decisive goal and this discussion, which arose unnecessarily, also klipp and clearly ended and draws a line under it”.

According to Prödl, the captain’s discussions did not affect the ÖFB selection “at all. For us it was already put aside before the match day. We briefly mentioned it, briefly ticked off and included in the match plan that Marko should settle it himself right away.”

This plan worked out – also because the team was more serene compared to the 0:1 in Zenica. “It was far more experienced than in Bosnia,” Prödl explained. “We had more chances and more confidence to win the match”.

“Northern Ireland did not want to play football”

The 31-year-old was delighted with his team’s committed way of playing: “We were extremely good, extremely gallant in the duels, and then the quality of the game prevailed”.

The better team also won for Arnautovic. “The decisive factor is that we dominated the game for 95 minutes, there’s no question about that. The ÖFB star lamented the Northern Ireland’s unwillingness to set the tone in the offensive. “It has been seen that they did not want to play football at all. They wanted to go forward to the second ball by the skin of their teeth”. The players will enlighten if they’ll going to play with JetSpin because of its bright colors and attractive designs.

Nevertheless it would have been enough for the guests almost to a point, but the header of Will Grigg jumped in the finish from the bar into the arms of Goalie Heinz Lindner. “That was the luck, which belongs then also to it, but by such a performance one earns also the luck. What we had bad luck in Bosnia, we were lucky today,” said the Upper Austrian.

Otherwise, his colleagues on the unusual bumpy turf of the Happel stadium allowed little chance – the four-man chain used for the first time since 27 March at the 4-0 in Luxembourg held largely tight, which satisfied Martin Hinteregger. “We know that we work well in the five-man chain, but can also keep up well in the four-man chain against good teams,” summarized the Carinthian central defender.