The start of the Nations League is going extremely well for Austrian footballers - and thus for the new head coach Ralf Rangnick: his team wins 3-0 against Croatia. Denmark manage an upset against defending champions France and Belgium suffer a bitter defeat against the Netherlands.
Ralf Rangnick has made a dream start as the new team boss of the Austrian national soccer team. The long-standing Bundesliga coach coached the world number 34. on his debut to a memorable 3-0 (1-0) victory at the start of the Nations League against runners-up Croatia. The Rangnick team immediately took the lead in Group A1 ahead of Denmark, who surprisingly won 2-1 (0-0) against world champions and defending champions France. Oranje also celebrated a prestigious victory: In Group A4, the Dutch team Elftal beat neighboring Belgium 4-1 (1-0) in the 128th “Derby der Lage Landen”.
For the Austrians, captain Marko Arnautovic (41st), Augsburg's Michael Gregoritsch (54th) and Munich's Marcel Sabitzer (57th) scored the goals that failed under Rangnick's predecessor Franco Foda in the World Cup play-offs in March.
After initial problems, the Austrians played very effectively in Osijek and used their chances ice cold. It was the first win against the Croatians at the sixth attempt, who suffered their first defeat since the round of 16 at the European Championship last year - after nine games.
Champions League winner David Alaba from Real Madrid was missing from Rangnick's team, the former Munich player did not travel at all due to stress. Five Bundesliga professionals were in the starting XI: Sabitzer, Gladbach's Stefan Lainer, Leipzig's Konrad Laimer, Wolfsburg's Xaver Schlager and Mainz's Karim Onisiwo.
The high pressing that is typical of Rangnick did not initially work as desired. The Croatians, with Dortmund's Marin Pongracic, Stuttgart's Borna Sosa and Hoffenheim's Andrej Kramaric in the starting line-up, found playful solutions, dominated the action even without their star Luka Modric, who sat on the bench for an hour, and created clearer scoring chances.
The Austrians only got stronger towards the end of the first half, but the lead through Arnautovic's 33rd international goal came as a surprise. In the second half, Rangnick brought on Christopher Trimmel and Gregoritsch from Berlin, who made it 2-0 after a remarkable combination. Sabitzer followed up with a long-range shot.
World champions and defending champions France started the competition in Paris with a sobering 2-1 (0-0) defeat against Denmark. The home side were the better side in St. Denis, but after seven wins in a row they left the field empty-handed. Both teams will also meet at the World Cup in Qatar on November 26th.
Substitute Andreas Cornelius (68th/88th) secured a brace for the Danes' victory. Karim Benzema initially gave the hosts the lead in the Stade de France, where he had won the Champions League with Real Madrid six days earlier (51').
Without world champion coach Didier Deschamps, whose father died earlier this week and who was replaced by his assistant Guy Stephan, France were initially lucky: Joakim Maehle hit the post from a tight angle (4th).
With Bayern pros Lucas Hernandez and Kingsley Coman in the starting XI, France then took charge. The Danes, with whom Christian Eriksen played his first competitive game in the national team since his cardiac arrest at the European Championship last year, now had hardly any chances.
That didn't change much after the break. Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku replaced the ailing Kylian Mbappe, who complained of knee pain. The lead was therefore reserved for Benzema: The veteran left two opponents in the penalty area and finished deliberately. However, Cornelius completely unexpectedly turned the game upside down.
The Netherlands clearly won the 128th Derby der Lage Landen in Belgium. The Oranje team also deservedly defeated their neighbors in Brussels 4:1 (1:0). This means that Bond coach Louis van Gaal's Elftal has been unbeaten for ten games.
Steven Bergwijn from Tottenham Hotspur (40th), the strong Barca professional Memphis Depay (51st/65th) and Denzel Dumfries from Inter Milan (61st) scored for the superior guests, who defeated their neighbors for the first time since 1997. Michy Batshuayi (90. 3) managed only cosmetic results.
The Belgians lost their striker Romelu Lukaku after just half an hour, the Chelsea attacker had to be substituted with an ankle injury. Thorgan Hazard, Thomas Meunier, Axel Witsel (all Borussia Dortmund) and Dedryck Boyata (Hertha BSC) were in the starting XI for the home team, while goalkeeper Mark Flekken from SC Freiburg was not used for the guests.