13.06.2021Bayer 04

Dragovic: 'We want to show our true colours'

As the most experienced player in the Euros squad, Aleksandar Dragovic will help lead the Austrian national team. The 30-year-old has 90 full international caps and has made over 400 club appearances. The Vienna-born player was suitably relaxed in his Euros interview with Dragovic, who will play for Red Start Belgrade next season, talks about the bumpy start to qualification, his long-standing teammate and fellow countrymen Julian Baumgartlinger as well as a score to settle from 2016.

Drago, Austria started the Euro qualifiers with two defeats at the start of 2019 and then want on an impressive run, picking up 19 out of a possible 21 points…
"The order of the qualifiers was just unlucky. Poland were tough opening opponents as expected (0-1) and it's not easy to win games in Israel (2-4). We did analyse the two matches as usual and not everything was that bad by a long way. In spite of the defeats we didn't play that badly. Therefore we continued to believe in ourselves. From that point, every game was obviously a final for us. And we did it in the end!"

Two thirds of the Austria squad play in the Bundesliga. Do games against each other in the league help the time in the national team?
"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether you play in China or in Germany. The players mostly only face each other in two games in the league per season. It's much more important that all the players regularly play for their clubs. It's about getting match practice and building confidence. And if that happens in the top league – and it's even better."

You recently became the Austria international with the fourth most appearances. How do you see your role in the national team – both on and off the pitch – at a big tournament like this?
"No player is exclusively in charge. We don't have a clear hierarchy as you do for example with Sergio Ramos at Real Madrid. Everybody helps everybody else – on and off the pitch. That's our starting point and that's shaped us over recent years."

Your teammate Julian Baumgartlinger is currently working hard on his comeback and the chance to play in the Euro finals. Do you think Baumi will be completely fit for the opening match?
Dragovic:"He’s made really good progress and is an incredibly important part of the team as captain. I'll be very happy if he leads us out onto the pitch in the first match against North Macedonia. Knowing him, there is a chance."

The Netherlands, Ukraine and Euro newcomers North Macedonia. How do you rate the chances for your Austria team. How far do you think you can go this year?
"We've got a score to settle from 2016 (Austria went out bottom of the group, ed.) and we owe our fans something this year. We want to show our true colours. It's an absolutely balanced group. North Macedonia, the supposed underdog, have beaten Germany. There are no easy opponents at the European Championship. The most important thing for us is the first match. That's what we're focused on."

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