AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Austria coach Franco Foda said forward Marko Arnautovic’s one-match ban following his angry goal celebration in their Euro 2020 opener was a blow but they have the squad depth to overcome his absence in Thursday’s Group C game against the Netherlands.
Earlier on Wednesday, European soccer’s governing body UEFA banned Arnautovic for “insulting another player” in the team’s 3-1 victory over North Macedonia on Sunday.
North Macedonia’s soccer governing body said remarks made by Arnautovic, who has a Serbian background, were directed at Gjanni Alioski who is of Albanian heritage.
Arnautovic, who also lashed out at North Macedonia fans, apologised on Monday but denied using racist language.
“It was bad news obviously,” Foda told reporters when asked about Arnautovic’s ban. “Marco will be missing and we’ll miss him, but we must compensate.”
“As a team we must get closer together. We had thought about putting him in the starting lineup, but now we have to rethink it but we will present a strong team.”
Foda said that Arnautovic had been provoked by some North Macedonia players and over-reacted.
“… But he admitted his mistake and apologised after the match,” Foda added.
“He and Alioski left each other as friends… we have to live with it now, with this verdict. There’s nothing we can do but we have enough players at our disposal for a good performance on the pitch.”
The Netherlands marked their return to a major tournament for the first time in seven years with a 3-2 win over Ukraine and Foda said he expects a tough test.
“We won our first match. It was very important, our first objective and now we have to build on that,” he said.
“They have a great team, but we have a lot of confidence after our victory, and it’ll be important to be brave.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)