Our 21

Christoph Baumgartner ensures Austria leave Euro 2020 with hope for the future

Robbie Copeland
Baumgartner competed well with the Italy midfield
Baumgartner competed well with the Italy midfield / Carl Recine - Pool/Getty Images

Austria weren't really given much of a chance heading into Euro 2020.

I mean, David Alaba plays for them. But what else have they got? Is a team that still plays Marko Arnautovic up front in the year 2021 really going to do any serious damage at a major tournament?

Writing them off was an easy trap to fall into, especially when some quick research told you they had only ever qualified for the European Championships twice, and hadn't won a game at either of them.

But what are the Euros for if not exposing that sort of ignorance and leaving us all feeling a little bit silly?

Austria didn't exactly set the continent alight, but they took a firm step forward in the eyes of their peers and politely warned us that we'll be seeing a lot more of them on this stage in the years ahead.

They came through a tough group as runners up to the Netherlands, dismissing a fancied Ukraine side without too much trouble, and then went out with a bang against one of the favourites for the tournament, taking Italy to extra-time and very nearly beyond.

But it wasn't just their strong, steady performances that gave them hope for the future. 21-year-old Christoph Baumgartner caught the eye, and proved that in the distant horizon beyond Alaba and Arnautovic, Austrian football is in good hands.

He wasn't at his electric best against the Italians. If he had been, Austria would probably be looking ahead to a quarter-final, such was the knife-edged nature of their last 16 tie at Wembley. But facing up to Giovanni Di Lorenzo, he did enough to catch the eye and show just what all the fuss is about.

The youngster has a blossoming relationship with Alaba, which may be why Franco Foda rigidly persisted with playing him off the left flank. It made for a left hand side that could stand up to anything that Euro 2020 threw at them, while the creativity flowing from the duo meant they could harm anyone - even the seemingly infallible Italians.

Baumgartner became the first of 90min's Our 21 to score at the tournament when his crashing header earned them a victory against Ukraine and the way he is going, it certainly won't be his last.

The Hoffenheim youngster is heading right to the top and while his tournament is now over, it likely won't be long before we see him back at a major championship.

Qatar 2022, anyone?