Still searching for their first UEFA Nations League win of the 2022-23 campaign, holders France will travel to the Ernst Happel Stadion in Leopoldstadt to face Austria on Friday night. Les Bleus have claimed only one point from their opening two games in League A Group 1 and currently sit five points behind leaders Denmark, while Austria sit in between both nations with three points. Ralf Rangnick made a perfect start to life as Austria head coach with an impressive 3-0 victory away against Croatia in their opening Nations League game, which saw Marko Arnautovic, Michael Gregoritsch and Marcel Sabitzer all on the scoresheet.
However, Das Team were quickly brought back down to earth as they suffered a 2-1 defeat at home to Denmark on Monday, with Jens Stryger Larsen coming off the bench to score an 84th-minute winner for the visitors. Austria had 17 shots against the Danes but they could only register one of those strikes on target, therefore Rangnick will be hoping that his side can rediscover their form in front of goal when they face an out-of-sorts France outfit on Friday. Das Team have had no problems scoring in recent home matches as they have netted 11 times in their last four internationals on home soil. Clean sheets, however, have been hard to come by as they have conceded in each of their last six games on their own turf.
Austria, who were promoted from League B of the Nations League in 2020-21, last faced France in a World Cup qualifier back in October 2009 when they lost 3-1 in Paris, but their last home game against Les Bleus 13 months prior to that fixture saw them win by the same scoreline in Vienna. France headed into their Nations League campaign with plenty of confidence as they had put together an impressive seven-game winning run across all competitions, scoring 24 goals in the process. However, Les Bleus have not made the best of starts as a 2-1 defeat at home to Denmark in their opening game was followed by a 1-1 draw away against Croatia on Monday.
Head coach Didier Deschamps returned to the dugout for the match in Split, after missing the last game following the death of his father, but he was unable to help guide his side to victory, with Adrien Rabiot’s 52nd-minute opener cancelled out by an 83rd-minute penalty by Andrej Kramaric. France made several changes to their starting lineup but fans would still have hoped for a better result against Croatia, and now the pressure is on to claim maximum points against Austria if they are to keep their hopes of winning League A alive. While a point claimed in Croatia was deemed a slight disappointment, that result extended France’s unbeaten run away from home to 15 matches in all competitions, with their last defeat on the road dating back to June 2019 when they lost 2-0 to Turkey in a European Championship qualifier.
Victory for Les Bleus, who have won three and drawn two of their five visits to Austria, would move them to within two points of Denmark if they were to lose to Croatia. Austria centre-back Philipp Lienhart has missed the opening two Nations League matches due to a fever and it remains to be seen whether he will return to the matchday squad on Friday. David Alaba, however, was able to start and play the full 90 minutes last time out after suffering with fitness issues, and the Real Madrid defender is set to remain in the first XI. Rangnick could revert to a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Stefan Lainer and Andreas Weimann operating as wing-back as they did against Croatia last week, while Arnautovic, Sasa Kalajdzic and Karim Onisiwo will all be competing for a place up front.
As for France, Raphael Varane has withdrawn from the squad due to a hamstring injury and has been replaced by Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konate, who will be hoping to make his senior international debut at centre-back. Deschamps is set to make a number of changes to his starting lineup, which could see N’Golo Kante – who was rested against Croatia – return to the side along with goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, Lucas Hernandez and Jules Kounde. Kylian Mbappe was not involved on Monday as a precaution after sustaining a minor knee injury against Denmark earlier in the week, but the forward could be in contention to feature on Friday, while Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann could also return to the first XI after beginning on the substitutes’ bench last time out.
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