Denmark will be hoping to retain their place at the top of Group F when they take on Austria at Ernst Happen Stadion on Wednesday.
Denmark’s start to their 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign has been quite majestic, as they secured a 2-0 win over Israel in their opening fixture before an 8-0 thumping of Moldova on the weekend.
The two results have left them at the very top of Group F with six points on the board, although coach Kasper Hjulmand will realise that his side will be dealt with a much trickier task when they travel to Vienna on Wednesday, to face Austria.
One of the three strongest teams in Group F, Austria have collected four points from their first two matches, including a 2-2 draw with Scotland in the first game. A win for the home side this midweek could see them pip Denmark at the top, while Denmark themselves are hoping to preserve their hundred percent record in the competition so far.
Although Denmark do remain the favourites to top this group, their central European opponent has enjoyed steady growth over the past couple of years, thanks to the Red Bull franchise’s rapid rise to prominence.
They are coming on the back of a 3-1 win over Faroe Island, although Austria need to be very careful up against a Denmark side that possesses excellent balance in their squad. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this crucial fixture in the European leg of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers this midweek.
Team News & Tactics
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Sasa Kalajdzic has been one of Bundesliga’s rising stars this season, attracting interest from Liverpool among many other clubs. He remains a key part of the Austrian attack that will also heavily rely on the creativity of Christoph Baumgartner and Marcel Sabitzer.
Austrian coach Franco Foda deployed star player David Alaba as a winger against the lowly Faroe Islands. That move is likely to be reverted against a more difficult opposition in Denmark, with the Bayern Munich star set to return to his preferred left-back position.
There could be one more change defensively, with Philipp Lienhart replacing Gernot Trauner at the heart of the four-man backline, where he will be partnered by Leverkusen’s Aleksandar Dragovic.
Foda has a host of quality options in midfield, but a more defensive-oriented approach should see Florian Grillitsch operate as the holding midfielder alongside Stefan Ilsanker in a generic 4-2-3-1, with Baumgartner being deployed in his preferred number ten role.
The Hoffenheim playmaker, however, could potentially join Kalajdzic up top during defensive phases, creating a 4-4-2 with two banks of four protecting goalkeeper Alexander Schlager.
Marcel Sabitzer and Xaver Schlager might occupy the wide attacking roles, just ahead of the two full-backs in Stefan Lainer and Alaba. However, Fode does have the option of deploying Alessandro Schopf on the right flank, as the Schalke winger is a better runner. Sabitzer, though, is a guaranteed starter, so he would have to move into central midfield in that case.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Schlager; Lainer, Dragovic, Lienhart, Alaba; Ilsanker, Grillitsch; Sabitzer, Baumgartner, Schlager; Kalajdzic
Denmark head coach Kasper Hjulmand rested a lot of key players against lowly Moldova on the weekend. Most of them are likely to comeback, although the 48-year-old is sure to face a selection dilemma given how well his secondary side fared in the last game, albeit against one of the weakest teams in Europe.
Nevertheless, Christian Eriksen, Thomas Delaney and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are among the players destined to return to the side. These three should operate in midfield, with Eriksen likely to be deployed in his favoured number ten role of a generic 4-2-3-1.
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It will be interesting to see how the aggressive midfield duo of Delaney and Hojbjerg combine against an equally strong Austrian midfield that boasts the services of Sabitzer, Schlager and Grillitsch.
Defensively, Daniel Wass and Joakim Maehle are guaranteed to return and occupy the full-back slots. Similar treatment will be given to the centre-backs, with the Premier League duo of Joachim Andersen and Jannik Vestergaard likely to make way for Andreas Christensen and Simon Kjaer, whose leadership qualities could be useful against the Austrian attack.
Speaking of attack, Hjulmand might just be tempted to give Kasper Dolberg the nod ahead of Jonas Wind as the leader of the Danish attack on Wednesday. The former Ajax star will be supported by the creative trio of Yussuf Poulsen, Eriksen and Mikkel Damsgaard, who could be rewarded for his performance against Moldova by getting the nod ahead of Martin Braithwaite on the left flank.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Wass, Kjaer, Christensen, Maehle; Hojbjerg, Delaney; Poulsen, Eriksen, Damsgaard; Dolberg
- Denmark and Austria last met back in October 2018, in an international friendly, where goals from Martin Brathwaite and Lukas Lerager helped the Danes secure a comfortable 2-0 victory.
- Denmark boast one of the strongest defences among the Scandinavian sides, having notably kept a clean sheet in five of their last seven encounters.
- Austria, in contrast, have kept just two clean sheets in their last ten affairs, despite facing teams such as Latvia, North Macedonia and the Faroe Islands.
- Denmark have a good record away from recently, securing three victories in their last four trips. Their only defeat came against Belgium.
- Austria’s 3-1 win over Faroe Islands was the first time they had scored three or more goals in a game since October 2019. It was against Israel, who are also involved in this Group F.
Player to Watch
There will be simply too many quality players on display this midweek, but it is Sasa Kalajdzic who certainly stands out the most at the moment.
Having scored 13 goals in just 25 Bundesliga appearances this campaign, the VfB Stuttgart forward has been in fine form in the domestic competitions. But it appears the tall striker is spilling his magic for the national team as well, having already netted two goals in three matches, including one against Faroe Islands.
Primarily known for his towering 2oocm figure, Kalajdzic’s ability to head the ball could serve as a boon for an Austrian side that are likely to have less of the possession and operate mainly on the counter. As for the striker himself, he will be hoping to produce a top display against a quality, especially with Liverpool scouts likely to keep a close eye.
Austria 1-2 Denmark
This is a very difficult game to predict as the two sides are well matched and are brimming with quality. We do, however, give Denmark the edge as they have performed well away from home and have a significantly stronger defensive. They might face problems penetrating the Austrian defence but are likely to prevail by a narrow margin, thereby retaining their hundred percent winning record in the European qualifiers.