Austria v Denmark
Ralf Rangnick has only been in the job for five weeks but he’s arguably already enjoyed more success as Austria boss than in his entire time at Manchester United.
Austria took charge of their UEFA Nations League League A Group with a stunning 3-0 win in Croatia on Friday night and look to follow it up on Monday when Denmark visit Vienna.
Despite a solid defensive showing and clean sheet against a top-tier nation on Friday, I don’t expect Austria to repeat that feat when Denmark, a team they know only too well, come to town.
Before Christmas Austria finished their WCQ campaign with three wins in four, scoring 10 goals, admittedly against the might of the Faroe Islands, Israel and Moldova. They fell short in the play-offs, however, going down 2-1 in Cardiff to Wales
The Danes also completed the double over Austria in the group, romping to a 4-0 success in Vienna in March 2021 and edging a 1-0 in Copenhagen last October.
The hosts are no mugs, however, if you remember they took eventual Champions Italy to extra-time in the Euros Round of 16 before bowing out and Austrian media hailed Saturday’s 3-0 success in Rangnick’s first match against Croatia in Osijek as their best performance for many years.
Austria know where the goal is but, prior to Saturday, had conceded seven goals in their previous four games, allowing Scotland, Wales and Israel to get two each and Moldova to score too.
In fact they have only kept one clean sheet in their last 13 home matches in all competitions, that coming in a pre-Euros stalemate against Slovakia 12 months ago this week.
Denmark did not reach the semi-finals of the Euros by accident, they are one of the best teams on the continent and their dramatic 2-1 win in France on Saturday was not as much of a surprise as it might once have been. While I fancy them to win in Vienna again, they are not infallible themselves, conceding eight goals in their last five games, allowing the Faroe Islands to get on the scoresheet in Copenhagen, suffering a 2-0 defeat to Scotland and a 4-2 reverse in the Netherlands before Karim Benzema’s opener in Paris spoiled their latest attempt at a clean sheet.
The odds of over 2.5 goals (1.9) look very generous but I feel slightly more comfortable backing BTTS at 1.73.
Andorra v Moldova
There is plenty of action elsewhere in Europe on Monday, not least in League D where the supposed minnows of continental football do battle with each other.
It’s usually hard to get too excited about the prospect of World No 153 hosting World No 180, except when we have a sneaky feeling the visitors of Moldova might cause a ‘surprise’ on their visit to Andorra.
Moldova enjoyed a 2-0 win in Liechtenstein on Saturday to get their bid for promotion back to the third tier off to a perfect start. After winning 1-0 in Kazakhstan in the second leg of the Nations League relegation play-offs in March, only to suffer the drop to League D after losing on penalties, it means the Moldovans have won back-to-back games for the first time in more than eight years. In 2014 they overcame Saudi Arabia in a friendly as well as recording a 3-0 win in… Andorra, where they will seek to make it three in a row on Tuesday.
Andorra won only three matches between 1996 and 2016, all friendlies, though they seem to have benefited from the introduction of the Nations League and enjoyed more success in the last few years. They completed the double over San Marino in WCQ last autumn and have scored in three straight at home after back-to-back 1-0 friendly wins over Saint Kitts and Nevis and Grenada in March.
They did however go down 3-0 in Latvia on Friday and though Moldova actually lost 1-0 in Andorra in 2019 during qualifying for Euro 2020, they had won on their previous two visits to the mountainous principality for friendly matches, scoring a combined four times without conceding.
Moldovan forward Ion Nicolaescu is only 23 but can move into the top-10 list for his nation’s all-time leading scorers with another goal to add to his early penalty on Friday and I’m backing his side to continue their streak at 1.95.
Faroe Islands v Luxembourg
Incredibly this will be something of an historic meeting between two of football’s lesser lights.
These two sides have only played three times in the 34 years since the Faroes joined FIFA with the Islanders doing the double over the lowlanders in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup before they played out a friendly stalemate in 2010.
The Faroes also enjoyed a successful last Nations League campaign, winning three and drawing three to ensure promotion to the third tier to set up this clash in the third tier, in which Luxembourg finished 2nd last time out after three wins and a draw from their six games.
Norwich winger Daniel Sinani enjoyed a successful loan spell with Huddersfield this season, falling narrowly short of promotion in the play-off final, but he bounced back to bag both goals as his country Luxembourg won 2-0 in Lithuania on Saturday to open their campaign in style.
The Faroes meanwhile went down 4-0 at group favourites Turkey to start life in the third tier and though they’ll have targeted this one as a ‘six-pointer’ in a bid to avoid an immediate return to League D, I fancy Luxembourg to at the very least register their first goal against the Islanders at the fourth time of asking.
They finished level on nine points with Ireland – whom they defeated 1-0 in Dublin of course – in 2022 WCQ and have now won two of their last three on the road, the exception a narrow 1-0 defeat in Bosnia.
I fancy the Red Lions to make it another away win, but given the fact the gritty Faroes can be a tough trip, I’m erring on the side of caution and going with the visitors to win, draw no bet.
Germany v England
Surely it can’t get any worse for England after Saturday’s turgid 1-0 defeat in Hungary, oh, wait, Germany away.
This should actually be a fascinating game to watch. There were murmurs of discontent about Gareth Southgate’s tactics following the pretty meek 1-0 reverse in Budapest and less than six months before the World Cup he’s under pressure to pick a more expansive line-up and formation against their old foes, who look a far more dangerous opponent than the side which was brushed aside by England in the Round of 16 in the Euros last summer.
Saturday’s 1-1 draw in their Nations League opener in Italy made it 10 games unbeaten since Hansi Flick took over at the helm of Die Mannschaft following that Euro 2020 exit at Wembley. The first eight were relatively routine wins against some of the continent’s lesser sides but back-to-back 1-1 draws in Holland and Italy suggest that the German rebuild might have been more successful and more quickly than anyone had predicted.
They have conceded just four goals and netted 35 in that spell and though even after Saturday England have only conceded seven themselves in their last 23 games, they looked sluggish and disorganised at the back and a sharper team would have punished them more severely. Germany will fancy themselves to be that side.
It’s hard to know what kind of reaction to expect from England but the players said all the right things at least following the defeat in Budapest and we know Harry Kane is desperate for his 50th England goal so I’ll err on the side of them showing some kind of a bounce back in Munich.
Former boss Joachim Low was never the greatest advocate of the Nations League and Germany had won just two of their 10 Nations League matches under him. Their record is now just two of 11 after Saturday but I suspect another score draw would suit both sides quite nicely and as such I’m going for BTTS and that to become two of 12.
Only one of the last five games played between the sides in England has seen both teams score but in games played overseas the record is seven of nine and I expect that trend to continue here.
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