After helping Austria hold Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal to a goalless draw at UEFA EURO 2016, new Bayer 04 Leverkusen midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger spoke about competing with the Real Madrid CF star, the importance of the fans, and still finding time to give advice to FC Bayern München stand-out David Alaba…
Question: Julian, the game in Paris felt like a home game for Austria. How much did the support of the fans help?
Julian Baumgartlinger: It was incredible how many fans there in red and white there were and how they supported us. That was a bit magical, it put a sparkle in our eyes. Even better is that we then showed a good, combative performance. I think the fans were rewarded in that we gave everything, even if we did not have huge chances. We were rewarded as a team, too. It was incredible.
Question: How would you sum up the game?
Baumgartlinger: I am very satisfied. We desperately needed the point, of course. Our game was defensive but we know that Portugal have high individual quality and we did not want to walk into a trap.
Question: …and then possibly to lose the second game of the tournament?
Baumgartlinger: This is football. In such a big competition you can sometimes start with a defeat. It did not sit well with us, but then we remembered our strengths and we made good on it against Portugal.
Question: David Alaba was replaced prematurely. What did you make of that?
Baumgartlinger: It was a difficult game for him today, but I think he made the best of it.
Question: Does he put himself under too much pressure?
Baumgartlinger: He knows how to handle the pressure, but perhaps he demands too much of himself sometimes because he is such an ambitious player. Sometimes you have to help him and say: 'young man, you do not have to tear it up on your own here.' But he has put himself at the service of the team and shown that he is a model professional.
Question: You worked hard to get a point in the second half. Was the second half better than the first?
Baumgartlinger: I think so. We were better in winning the ball back in the second half. It is clear that we cannot always defend one-on-one against the individual quality of the Portuguese players. In admitting that, we also need to acknowledge that we had a bit of luck in some situations.
Question: What about the penalty [missed by Ronaldo] late in the game?
Buamgartlinger: Too bad! But I meant what I said before. Ronaldo was involved in many dangerous actions.
Question: What is it like to play against him?
Baumgartlinger: Honestly, not too different from usual. Everyone knows what he can do, but in the game I do not pause to think: 'now I have to pay extra to watch!'
Question: Are you now in a great state of mind?
Baumgartlinger: Well, yes, but we were not miserable even after losing to Hungary. We knew before that this competition was the first major competition for many of us. We cannot expect to cruise through the tournament. That was why we were not devastated, as was alleged by some. This performance [against Portugal] was positive, the result was positive. Everything is OK.
Question: Now you have a real final on Tuesday. How do you prepare for Iceland?
Baumgartlinger: Time will tell. This is a completely different game, but we are looking forward to it.