First meets fourth on the final matchday of League A Group 1 in the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League as Austria welcome group leaders Croatia to Vienna on Sunday evening.
Zlatko Dalic’s side are aiming to progress to the Nations League finals with victory, while nothing less than three points will do for Das Team if they are to remain in the top division.
Any hopes of Austria overcoming a France side bedevilled by controversy off the field and countless injuries on it were swiftly dashed on Thursday night, as Das Team’s relegation woes deepened with a 2-0 loss to the reigning world and Nations League champions.
Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud were both on target in a game where victory for Austria would have seen them retain their League A status at the expense of France’s, but the hosts’ fate is now out of their own hands ahead of the final matchday.
Das Team have collected four points from their five matches and now occupy the fourth and final place in League A Group 1; a defeat or a draw would signal the end of their time in League A, as France possess a better head-to-head record.
Whatever transpires at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion will be rendered inconsequential if France come away from their clash with Denmark with three points to their name, and an immediate return to League B is the most probable outcome for Austria at this point.
Rangnick’s men have now suffered three defeats and posted one draw from their last four Nations League encounters and have gone six games at home without a clean sheet in all competitions, but they possess fond memories from their summer showdown with Croatia.
With current holders France already consigned to a third-placed finish at best, it is a straight shootout between Croatia and Denmark for top spot in League A Group 1 and a coveted place in the Finals, and Zlatko Dalic’s side did what they had to do against their Scandinavian counterparts on Thursday.
Borna Sosa and Lovro Majer’s goals either side of Christian Eriksen’s response put Croatia in the driving seat before the final matchday with a 2-1 victory in Zagreb, which marked a third successive win for the Chequered Ones after ending June with a 1-0 triumphs over Denmark and France.
Now holding a one-point buffer over Denmark in the rankings, the formula for Croatia is simple. Victory over Austria would guarantee the 2018 World Cup runners-up a spot in the Finals, but even a draw or defeat would suffice if the Danes cannot better their result against France.
With only one goal conceded across their last 270 minutes of Nations League football, Das Team ought to feel quietly confident about their chances of quelling a depleted Austria attack and make the Finals of the Nations League for the very first time, which would serve as a major injection of confidence before the World Cup.
However, Austria’s only win in the 2022-23 tournament so far came in a 3-0 thumping of Croatia on the opening matchday back in June, but the visitors have won each of their other five meetings with Das Team stretching back to 2000.
Austria Nations League form:
Austria form (all competitions):
Croatia Nations League form:
Croatia form (all competitions):
We say: Austria 0-2 Croatia
With two integral cogs in Alaba and Arnautovic potentially sitting this one out – or thrown into the action when not fully fit – the writing may be on the wall for an Austria side already lacking in confidence.
Croatia may have been humbled by Das Team only three months ago, but the Chequered Ones have upped their defensive game and should seal a spot in the Finals while simultaneously condemning Austria to life back in League B.