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Exciting Times Ahead for Newcastle United, Say Austria and Slovakia

I finally got around to writing this piece about Newcastle United, Austria, and Slovakia.

What’s the connection, you ask?

You might think it’s about Martin Dúbravka, given his ties to Slovakia and Newcastle United. But Austria? That’s a bit trickier.

Let me take you back to Monday.

There were three matches at the 2024 European Championships:

  • Romania 3 Ukraine 0
  • Belgium 0 Slovakia 1
  • France 1 Austria 0

While Romania’s performance was impressive, I want to focus on the other two games.

Slovakia’s match saw them take a shocking 7th-minute lead, but by the end, it was clear how they defeated Belgium. Despite being the biggest upset in Euro history, with Belgium ranked nearly fifty places higher, Slovakia thoroughly deserved their win.

Though Belgium had more possession (60% vs. 40%), Slovakia had more corners (7 vs. 5) and nearly as many shots on target (4 vs. 5). Slovakia’s well-drilled team, under brave tactical guidance, played a high press with pace and energy that Belgium couldn’t handle. It was a testament to teamwork over individual star power, much like what Eddie Howe is building at Newcastle United.

This brings me to the France vs. Austria match. France, favorites with a star-studded lineup, struggled against an Austrian team that played an exciting high press. Austria, with more possession (52% vs. 48%) and equal shots on target (3 vs. 3), were the more dangerous team despite an unfortunate own goal deciding the match in France’s favor.

Austria’s and Slovakia’s performances remind me of Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United. Howe’s high-press, attacking football, demanding fitness and teamwork, mirrors the approach of these national teams. When 11 individuals come together under a progressive manager with a clear, exciting strategy, they become a formidable team.

Ralf Rangnick’s work with Austria, despite being mistreated by Manchester United, exemplifies the power of cohesive teamwork over big spending. Manchester United’s negative tactics and lack of pressing under Erik ten Hag, despite heavy investments, contrast sharply with this.

There’s a progressive wave in football, both at club and national levels, embracing brave, attacking high-press football. I’m thrilled that Eddie Howe and Newcastle United are part of this movement. Long may it last.

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