Arnautovic finally enjoying Euros as Austria eye knockouts

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Austria captain Marko Arnautovic said on Monday his third European Championship has been "amazing" after disappointing previous experiences in the tournament, as his team eye a last-16 place.

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Arnautovic was part of the Austria squad that managed just one goal and one point at Euro 2016, before they suffered an extra-time last-16 defeat by eventual champions Italy at the Covid-delayed finals three years ago. A victory against the Netherlands in Berlin on Tuesday would secure a top-two finish in Group D, while a draw would almost certainly at least wrap up a spot in the knockout phase as one of the best third-placed sides.
"When I played my first Euros, that wasn't great. Second one was Covid so that wasn't great, but this one has been amazing, lots of fun," said Inter Milan striker Arnautovic. "The optimal scenario would be to win tomorrow and then we'll see but most important is the game tomorrow." Arnautovic only came on as a substitute in the opening 1-0 loss to France, but started and scored in the 3-1 win over Poland which put Austria on the brink of going through.
He started his professional career as a teenager in the Netherlands with FC Twente and says it will be a special moment personally to face the Oranje. "It was my second home, I went there when I was very young," said the 35-year-old, who counts Dutch among the six languages he can speak. "I learned a lot from the country and from the people there so yes it's special tomorrow...
"Dutch people are very nice, I lived with a host family, they treated me very well and everything in those three years was a great experience." Austria can only go through as group winners with a victory if France fail to beat already-eliminated Poland in the other final Group D game. A second-place finish would leave them next facing the runners-up of Group E, which features Belgium, Romania, Ukraine and Slovakia.
"I prefer to finish first but we have to win and France not to, and it's not very likely for both of those things to happen," admitted coach Ralf Rangnick. "I would take second place, third place is too complicated, I looked at it but I gave up because it's too complicated. "The main goal is to get to the last 16 and then after the last few games we'll see."
Austria, touted by many as dark horses for the tournament, have never reached the quarter-finals at the European Championship. Their run to the Euro 2020 last 16 was the first time they had played in the knockout rounds of a major tournament since 1954.

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