Austria will be up against France in the third round of the UEFA Nations League A Group 1 at the Ernst Happel Stadion in Leopoldstadt, Austria. Defending champions France are still searching for their first win in the 2022-23 campaign of the UEFA Nations League. Les Bleus have picked up just a single point from their opening two matches in League A Group 1, and are currently five points adrift of the summit of the group, a position held by Denmark. Meanwhile, Austria occupy the spot in between both the countries with three points to their name
Troubled Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick has made a wonderful start to life as the national team head coach of Austria. In his very first outing, he led his side to a 3-0 victory away against Croatia in their UEFA Nations League opener in the current cycle. The clash also saw Marko Arnautovic, Michael Gregoritsch and Marcel Sabitzer all get on the scoresheet for Austria.
However, Austria suffered a drastic dose of reality and were quickly brought back down to Earth in the very next game as they went on to suffer a 2-1 loss at home to Denmark on Monday. Danish forward Jens Stryger Larsen came off the bench to score the winning goal in the 84th minute of the contest for the visitors as they marched to the top of the group table.
It is not to say that Austria did not create chances against Denmark the host. They had registered 17 shots during the game against the Danes, but only one of those was on target, which goes on to suggest the lack of accuracy that plagued Rangnick’s side. He will be hoping that the team can rediscover their scoring boots in the final third of the pitch when they face an out-of-sorts French team on home soil on Friday.
Das Team have faced little to no problems finding the back of the net in recent matches at home. They have scored 11 times in their last four international fixtures on home turf. However, it is the backline that has been vulnerable to errors and has been opened up easily. As a result, clean sheets have been hard to come by and Austria have conceded at least a goal in each of their last six matches on their own home soil.
Austria had recently secured promotion from League B of the Nations League in the 2020-21 cycle. The last time they took on Les Blues was in a World Cup qualifying fixture way back in October 2009. On that occasion, they had suffered a 3-1 defeat in Paris. However, the last home match against France took place 13 months before that game in Paris and they had secured a victory by the same scoreline on that particular occasion. On Friday, Ralf Rangnick will be hoping that history repeats itself as an under-firing Les Bleus outfit make the trip to Austria.
World champions France had arrived at the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League cycle on a strong run of form, having put together a wonderful streak of seven consecutive victories across all competitions while also finding the back of the net 24 times during this period.
However, in what has been a nightmare of a start, Les Bleus have failed to secure a win after two matches so far. They began their campaign with a 1-1 draw against a side they had defeated in the final in Russia to win the 2018 World Cup, Croatia on Monday. That was followed by a shocking 2-1 defeat to Denmark at home and the reigning champions of the competition must quickly figure out a way to bounce back.
Head coach Didier Deschamps had missed the opening match of the campaign following the demise of his father but was present in the dugout for the match against Croatia in Split. However, he was unable to find any joy in football as France ended up surrendering to a defeat. Andrej Kramaric coolly slotted in from the penalty spot seven minutes before time to cancel out Adrien Rabiot’s 52nd-minute opener.
While the reigning world champions did make several changes to their starting lineup, fans would still have hope for a much better result against Croatia, especially given their rough start to the competition. The onus will be on Les Bleus to claim all three points against Austria away from home if they want to keep alive their hopes of winning League A.
While the draw with Croatia in the previous match was viewed from the lens of bitter disappointment, that result also extended France’s unbeaten record away from home to 15 matches in all competitions. The last time they had suffered a defeat on the road was back in June 2019 when they fell 2-0 to Turkey in the European Championship qualifiers for Euro 2020.
If Les Bleus managed to register a win on Friday, it would move them to within two points of table-toppers Denmark if they lose their match against Croatia. France have won three games and have drawn twice in their five trips to Austria.
AUT vs FRA, UEFA Nations League
Date: 11th June, 2022
Time: 12:15 AM IST
Venue: Ernst Happel Stadion, Leopoldstadt, Austria
Austria Nations League form:
Austria form (all competitions):
France Nations League form:
France form (all competitions):
Austria wins: 9
France wins: 12
Austria Team News: Reliable Austrian centre-back Philipp Lienhart ended up missing the first two fixtures of the UEFA Nations League due to a fever and it will be interesting to see whether he is able to make a return to the matchday squad for Friday’s affair against France.
Captain David Alaba, meanwhile, looks to be in full fitness as he was able to play the entire 90 minutes last time out without suffering any issues. The Real Madrid defender is set to remain the first name in team XI.
Rangnick could be tempted to switch the formation to 3-4-1-2, with Stefan Lainer and Andreas Weimann operating as wing-backs, similar to their roles against Croatia in the previous week. Meanwhile, Marko Arnautovic, Sasa Kalajdzic, and Karim Onisiwo will be competing for places up front.
France Team News: In the opening contest against Denmark, France suffered heavily when two of their most important players in Raphael Varane and Kylian Mbappe had to come off the pitch owing to injuries. While Varane picked up a hamstring issue, PSG superstar Mbappe suffered a knee injury and had to be taken off.
Raphael Varane has withdrawn from the squad because of his hamstring problem and he has been replaced by Liverpool centre-back Ibrahima Konate who will be expected to make his senior international debut against Austria. Deschamps could also start with Presnel Kimpembe as usual in the absence of Varane.
France will also have to be careful in the way they handle N’Golo Kante given the packed schedule of fixtures as well as his recent struggles to stay match fit. He was rested in the previous match but might return to the fold here along with the likes of Hugo Lloris, Lucas Hernandez, and Jules Kounde.
Karim Benzema, probably the most in-form player in the world, will spearhead the attack as usual. He will be expected to find support from Antoine Griezmann who is going through a particularly dry period in front of the goal.
Kylian Mbappe was not involved on Monday against Croatia as a precaution following the knee injury earlier in the week. However, will be in contention to return to the starting XI on Friday with France in a desperate situation.
Austria possible starting lineup:
Lindner; Posch, Alaba, Wober; Lainer, Laimer, Schlager, Weimann; Sabitzer; Onisiwo, Arnautovic
France possible starting lineup:
Lloris; Kounde, Kimpembe, L. Hernandez; Clauss, Kante, Guendouzi, T. Hernandez; Griezmann; Benzema, Mbappe
With Didier Deschamps relying on plenty of his top-tier superstars in the starting XI, France are expected to be a much stronger team when they face Austria on Friday. The duo of Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe is enough to strike terror in the hearts of any defensive unit, let alone an Austrian rear guard which has conceded goals in six of its most recent games.
While the hosts who have a formidable record on home soil will definitely not make it easy for the 2018 World Cup and 2021 UEFA Nations League winners, when it comes to assessing quality, France have much more resources and will be expected to secure a comfortable victory here.