Preview: Austria vs. France

The Merkur Spiel-Arena in Dusseldorf is the venue for Monday’s closing Euro 2024 contest, as in-form Austria and title favourites France pit their wits against one another in Group D.

Das Team have never progressed past the round of 16 at the continental championships, while Les Bleus have two titles to their name but have some wrongs to right from three years ago.

Match preview

One of many managers to turn down the chance to replace Thomas Tuchel at Bayern Munich, Ralf Rangnick – in spite of his ill-fated spell in the Manchester United hotseat – has been well and truly working his magic with Austria, who arrive in their neighbouring nation as one of the most in-form teams on the continent.

Finishing just one point adrift of Belgium in their qualifying section, having posted six wins from a possible eight while dropping just five points along the way, Euros appearance number four is now on the menu for Austria, whose 2008 and 2016 campaigns ended prematurely with no wins under their belts.

However, Das Team belatedly earned their Euros stars in 2020, overcoming North Macedonia and Ukraine in the group stages before an excruciating extra-time defeat to eventual champions Italy, and the form book suggests that a surprise can be sprung in Group D.

While Poland and the Netherlands will provide daunting opposition, Rangnick has overseen a magnificent spell of results since a 3-2 loss to Belgium in Euros qualifying, masterminding six straight wins before a 1-1 draw with Switzerland on June 8 stopped the train in its tracks.

Nevertheless, the aforementioned defeat at the hands of the Belgians represents Austria’s sole defeat from their last 16 matches across all competitions, and not since September 2022 have Das Team drawn a blank in front of goal; a word of warning for a France outfit with a point to prove.

Amid conquering the globe in Russia and also sealing a Nations League title three years ago, heartbreak has been the theme of France’s last two major competitions, and Les Bleus have a barren 24-year run without continental stardom to snap on German soil.

Before severing ties with Paris Saint-Germain and completing his long-awaited switch to Real Madrid, Kylian Mbappe went from hero to zero as his penalty miss against Switzerland condemned France to a last-16 Euro 2020 exit, before he trudged up to the podium with a face like thunder to collect his World Cup 2022 Golden Boot following Argentina’s 12-yard triumph.

In spite of recent shortcomings and Zinedine Zidane lurking in the background, Didier Deschamps – now the only living man to win a World Cup as a player and manager – remains in the hotseat to oversee France’s 11th Euros campaign, two of which in 1984 and 2000 saw Les Bleus go all the way.

Among France’s seven qualifying wins was a record 14-0 obliteration of Gibraltar, but even though Deschamps’s men were comfortable 3-0 victors over Luxembourg in their first friendly of the month, a drab goalless draw with Canada on June 9 was hardly the ideal send-off.

However, not since Euro 2012 have Les Bleus been defeated in a group-stage affair, and they had Austria’s number during the most recent Nations League cycle, being held to a 1-1 draw in June 2022 before a straightforward 2-0 Stade de France success a few months down the line.

Team News

A handful of noteworthy Austrian names will be watching the Euros from the treatment room, including ACL victims David Alaba and Sasa Kalajdzic, while RB Leipzig midfielder Xaver Schlager did not make the selection either owing to a serious knee problem of his own.

However, Austria’s most-capped men’s player of all time – veteran striker Marko Arnautovic – is in the ranks, although Michael Gregoritsch is expected to win the scrap for the number nine spot in Rangnick’s 4-2-3-1.

Right-back Stefan Posch has also battled back from a knee concern and is poised to start in defence, especially with Gernot Trauner missing training on Friday, although that was more a precautionary measure than anything else.

As for a star-studded France outfit, Kingsley Coman was laid low by an illness earlier in the week but should be fine to feature, while Mbappe is also raring to go despite an alarming blow to the knee in the friendly win over Luxembourg.

That is more than can be said for Real Madrid lynchpin Aurelien Tchouameni, who is still on the mend from the foot injury that forced him to miss the Champions League final, so Juventus’ Adrien Rabiot is expected to be given the nod in the engine room.

Further back, Arsenal’s William Saliba was looking likely to be overlooked despite his magnificent Premier League season, but Deschamps has apparently now made a U-turn on his decision and will demote Ibrahima Konate to the bench instead.

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