Netherlands to be tested once again
Two nations buoyant from matchday one victories face off at the Amsterdam Arena in Group C. Austria currently top the group on goal difference after their convincing 3-1 win over North Macedonia, with the Netherlands in second after their dramatic 3-2 victory over Ukraine. Led competently by Champions League winner and soon to become Real Madrid key man David Alaba, Austria have a squad to be proud with many applying their trade at the top of the Bundesliga. It was a bright performance from the Dutch against Ukraine, they could have been high and dry by half time, but Franco Foda’s side will be able to match them for quality in certain areas and pose a different kind of threat.
Austria have a midfield engine room to match anyone else in the competition, Alaba has been playing to the left of a central trio of Konrad Laimer and Xaver Schlager with Marcel Sabitzer sitting just head, all of these players will enjoy Champions League football next season and the former two are improving rapidly at 24 and 23 respectively. Laimer is the calm composed head in the centre of the park, keeping things ticking over and using the ball responsibly, Schlager is the driving force, the Wolfsburg man uses his physicality to great effect and could grow into a midfield destroyer in years to come. There is a depth of Bundesliga talent on the bench as well, not something that could have been said about Austrian sides of the past. The Austrian Bundesliga has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with the Red Bull franchise establishing a supply line from Salzburg to Leipzig, the ethics of this process have been questioned but there is no doubt it is increasing the strength of the national team.
It was a freak ricochet that caused them to concede the equaliser on matchday one, not a type of goal that comes around too often. Michael Gregoritsch made a huge impact from the bench with the running in behind, an interesting foil to the aerial threat of Sasa Kalajdzic.
Oranje walk in as rightful favourites for this encounter given their quality and tournament pedigree, but pound for pound the market does not represent the shrinking chasm in talent between the two squads. There is certainly value in using the Asian Handicap to get the Austrians on side with a headstart.