Preview: Austria vs. Turkey

Both into the last 16 following an eventful climax to their group-stage campaign, Euro 2024 dark horses Austria and Turkey convene in Leipzig on Tuesday evening.

The nations’ first major-tournament meeting features a substantial prize: the winner will qualify for a quarter-final against either Netherlands or Romania.

Match preview

Having arrived in neighbouring Germany as one of Europe’s form sides, Austria qualified for the knockout rounds of Euro 2024 as Group D winners by beating Netherlands 3-2 in a thrilling contest at Berlin’s Olympiastadion last Tuesday.

Ralf Rangnick’s men were handed a tough draw alongside the Oranje and favourites France, but they accrued six points from a possible nine to finish top of the pile, ahead of Les Bleus, who were surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw by already-eliminated Poland.

After they twice lost the lead, Austria captain Marcel Sabitzer struck an 80th-minute winner to snatch first place, following an opening defeat to France and a 3-1 win over Poland.

The Austrians failed to pass the group stage at their first two Euros – as hosts in 2008, and then again eight years later – so getting this far already represents an impressive achievement.

Indeed, Das Team have qualified for the knockout phase of a major tournament for only the fourth time ever, also doing so at the 1934 and 1954 World Cups and Euro 2020.

Rangnick’s high-energy side are now trying to reach Austria’s first European Championship quarter-final, and recent results suggest they could be ready to break new ground: they have now won 14 of their last 19 matches, losing just two.

Since Rangnick took charge in June 2022, only three European nations – Portugal, Netherlands and Spain – can boast a higher win percentage, with one notable victory taking place in a friendly fixture just over three months ago.

Austria smashed Turkey 6-1 in Vienna during the spring international period, when Michael Gregoritsch helped himself to a hat-trick before the hour mark at Ernst Happel Stadion.

In competitive meetings, though, Turkey are unbeaten in their last five games against Tuesday’s opponents, keeping a clean sheet on each occasion; albeit this will be the first such encounter since a 0-0 draw in Euro 2012 qualifying.

The Crescent-Stars set up this latest clash by claiming a dramatic 2-1 win over Czech Republic in their final Group F game on Wednesday evening, when veteran striker Cenk Tosun struck in second-half stoppage time to seal a place in the last 16.

Though Vincenzo Montella’s men knew that a point would be enough – and they played most of the match with a one-man advantage – conceding not long after Hakan Calhanoglu’s 51st-minute piledriver put them in front had left their progress in some jeopardy.

Tosun’s late strike not only sparked a chaotic conclusion that saw several cards brandished but also meant Turkey finished second in the standings, having begun their Group F campaign with an eventful 3-1 win over debutants Georgia and then lost 3-0 to Portugal.

Montella’s youthful squad – who had the second-youngest starting XI on average during the group stage – have therefore taken their nation into the latter stages of the Euros for just a third time ever, and the first since 2008, when Turkey memorably made the semi-finals.

Now, their Euro 2024 adventure continues, and despite Austria’s proximity to the host nation, the Crescent-Stars are sure to have a bigger backing, with many thousands of Turkish emigrants having settled in Germany over the past 60 years.

Team News

Ralf Rangnick’s return to Leipzig, where he experienced several years of success as a club coach and advisor, will see the 66-year-old make at least one change to a winning side, as Wolfsburg winger Patrick Wimmer must serve a suspension.

Either Konrad Laimer or Christoph Baumgartner – the latter of whom has been directly involved in nine goals across his last eight international appearances – should therefore step up from the bench.

Record caps-holder Marko Arnautovic again battles it out with Michael Gregoritsch to spearhead an aggressive attack, while any two from Max Wober, Kevin Danso, Gernot Trauner and Philipp Lienhart will start in central defence.

Vincenzo Montella, meanwhile, must do without influential captain Hakan Calhanoglu and centre-back Samet Akaydin on Tuesday, after both picked up their second bookings of the tournament against Czech Republic.

Abdulkerim Bardakci is back from suspension and should join Merih Demiral at the heart of Turkey’s back four, with Okay Yokuslu, Kaan Ayhan and Orkun Kokcu vying to replace Calhanoglu in midfield.

First-choice goalkeeper Mert Gunok is still troubled by a knee injury that kept him out of the loss to Portugal but has trained and should start between the posts.

Should Juventus star Kenan Yildiz (19 years and 59 days) and Real Madrid’s Arda Guler (19 years and 128 days) both be selected, it will be just the second time any nation has started two teenagers in a knockout game at the Euros – and the first since 1964.

Austria possible starting lineup:
Pentz; Posch, Danso, Lienhart, Mwene; Seiwald, Grillitsch; Schmid, Baumgartner, Sabitzer; Arnautovic

Turkey possible starting lineup:
Gunok; Muldur, Demiral, Bardakci, Kadioglu; Yuksek, Yokuslu; Kahveci, Guler, Yildiz; Yilmaz

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