Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 5/4
In-form Austria may not have qualified for the 2018 World Cup finals, but they will give their best to prove their worth against some of world’s top sides over the next two weeks. World Cup hosts Russia, on the other hand, desperately need to make amends for heavy losses to Brazil and France, with this being their penultimate warm-up game.
The Austrian national team have shown a great deal of promise over the last decade or so, but they have yet to impress at major competitions. While they were unfortunate to crash out in the group stage at the Euro 2008 and Euro 2016 in spite of some very good showings, Das Team have now failed to qualify for five successive World Cup finals, last appearing on the biggest stage back in 1998.
Former Sturm Graz boss Franco Foda was handed the reigns after the failure to reach Russia 2018, and he has done really well in his first few games in charge. Under his command, Austria went on to beat Uruguay (2-1), Slovenia (3-0) and Luxembourg (4-0), and having also previously won last two qualifiers, the team are now on a five-match winning run. And given Russia’ problems and heavy pressure on the players’ shoulders, we would not be surprised to see Austria’s excellent winning streak continue.
The likes of Florian Klein, Valentino Lazaro, Marcel Sabitzer and Michael Gregoritsch all miss out, while Cican Stankovic, Richard Strebinger, Marvin Potzmann and Thomas Murg get a chance to win their first caps.
Russia will have had two full years to prepare for the World Cup on home soil, but the general impression is the time has been wasted rather than used to improve the country’s prospects at the showpiece tournament. Head coach Stanislav Cherchesov has constantly changed tactical schemes and players in the squad, which prevented the team from obtaining any kind of cohesion or automatism that would have been very helpful at the tournament finals.
While the results in friendly matches were not the most important thing, chances are players will be low on confidence after failing to win any of their last five fixtures, losing to Argentina, Brazil and France whilst sharing spoils with Iran and Spain. Russia will face Austria and Turkey before they battle Saudi Arabia in the opening fixture of the 2018 World Cup and Stanislav Cherchesov’s side will want to improve the atmosphere in the squad with two convincing performances, but that is easier said than done at the moment.
Zenit midfielder Aleksandr Erokhin misses out through a foot injury, while Viktor Vasin and Aleksandr Kokorin will not be playing at the 2018 World Cup.
Key Factors to Consider
- Austria on a five-match winning run
- Russia winless in last five fixtures (D2 L3)
- Austria won both Euro 2016 qualifiers vs Russia
- Their last three meetings produced mere two goals in total
- Russia conceded three goals in each of last three matches
While Austria are buoyed by their excellent run of results with plenty of newcomers eager to impress, Russia will be under a great deal of pressure as the World Cup is about to start and they are nowhere near the desired form. Therefore, we are backing Das Team to emerge victorious.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 5/4
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