The top two sides in League A Group 1 of the UEFA Nations League prepare for battle on Monday night, as Denmark welcome Austria to the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.
Kasper Hjulmand’s men went down 1-0 to Croatia last time out, while the visitors were unfortunate not to come away from their clash with France with all three points.
Failing to take advantage of a Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic-less Croatia side for 45 minutes on Friday night, Denmark ultimately paid the price and suffered a narrow defeat to the 2018 World Cup runners-up on their own soil.
A spate of half-time changes saw Croatia come out all guns blazing in the second period, and Atalanta BC midfielder Mario Pasalic poked home in the 69th minute to end Denmark’s perfect start in the group, but the Scandinavians are still sitting pretty at the top.
Indeed, Hjulmand’s side are two clear of their upcoming opponents after leaving Austria and France with three points to their name on each occasion earlier this month, and optimism is only growing ahead of the 2022 World Cup, where Denmark will learn the fate of their final group opponents this week.
Defeat to Croatia ended a six-game winning run for Denmark on their own turf, and it has been over a year since Hjulmand’s side last drew a game in any competition, but such a result here would leave them in pole position to qualify for the finals before they reconvene in September.
Kylian Mbappe recovered from injury in time to enjoy a productive 30-minute cameo on Friday, and while one should never wish ill health on a player, Austria fans would likely have been frustrated to see the Paris Saint-Germain forward leave the treatment room so soon.
Before Mbappe’s introduction, Ralf Rangnick’s side were on course for a memorable win over the world champions thanks to Andreas Weimann’s opener, but Mbappe’s 83rd-minute response forced a share of the spoils in Vienna.
Rangnick’s side were rightly praised for coming so close yet so far to taking all three points home, but the former Manchester United boss was keen to avoid messages of congratulations after their failure to hold onto a slender lead, and that draw leaves Austria second in the standings after three matches.
One win, one draw and one loss from his opening three games in charge is a true definition of mixed fortunes for Rangnick, who must now attempt to steer Das Team to a sixth consecutive win away from home in the Nations League.
The most recent of those successes saw Das Team put three past Croatia in Rangnick’s maiden game in charge, but they lost 2-1 to Denmark earlier this month and have now suffered four straight losses to their Scandinavian counterparts since victory in a 2010 friendly
Denmark Nations League form:
Denmark form (all competitions):
Austria Nations League form:
Austria form (all competitions):
We say: Denmark 1-1 Austria
Denmark and Austria can both be satisfied with their starts to the current Nations League cycle but will already be itching for a long summer break, which could lead to a somewhat conservative battle between tired legs.
Hjulmand’s men are unlikely to be kept at bay on their own soil, but Austria held their own remarkably well against France, and we think this showdown has a low-scoring draw written all over it.