ÖFB team in the Nations League against Norway, among others

The Austrians play two games each in September, October and November. UEFA plans to announce the exact schedule on Friday. Norway and Slovenia look to be tough opponents in the fight for group success. The Norwegians are 44th in the world rankings, twenty places behind Austria. The Slovenians are 54th, while the Kazakhs, fresh from League C, are 100th.

Rangnick expressed mixed feelings after the draw. “Norway is one of the strongest opponents we can draw. It's still okay, I'm looking forward to seeing Erling Holland again,” said the German. “Slovenia is definitely a good thing because we don't have to travel too far. Theoretically you can talk about a local derby.

The ÖFB coach worries about the long-distance trip to Kazakhstan. “The fourth opponent is definitely one we don't want – not because I have anything against this country, but a five-hour flight and a five-hour time difference in the middle of the season is tough for the players,” Rangnick said. The Cossacks would have actually been drawn into a group with England and Ireland. Before the draw, it had already been agreed that the team would only be allowed one trip to the British Isles. So, the outsider slipped into the ÖFB pool, with group leaders England taking on much tougher opponents Greece from the last pot.

The Austrians have already clashed with Norway in their second Nations League event in 2020. Back then, Holland was only involved in the first clash in Oslo, which ÖFB won 2–1. Red-White-Red under team boss Franco Foda won the group in a 1-1 draw against Norway in the final clash in Vienna. The Scandinavians are missing all their players with international experience due to the Corona quarantine rules.

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Apart from Haaland, the Norwegians now have high profile players such as his Manchester City counterpart Oscar Popp and Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard. Rangnick says he's happy to see the Holland he knew from his Red Bull days again. The ÖFB team boss said he spoke to the 23-year-old on the phone for ten minutes before one of City's Champions League duels with RB Leipzig in the autumn.

Apart from goalkeeper Jan Oblak, former Salzburg striker Benjamin Cesko, like Holland, also stars for Slovenia. There have only been four international clashes with their southern neighbors so far, with the ÖFB side winning the most recent two 1-0 in a European Championship qualifier in 2019. The Austrians are still unbeaten in four matches against the Kazakh side, but they drew 0-0 away from home.

“It's not an easy group, but you can't pick your opponents,” said ÖFB president Klaus Mitterdorfer, who went into the draw with Rangnick. “It's a challenging and exciting group. We'll be seeing some familiar faces again who have played in the domestic Bundesliga,” said sporting director Peter Shottel. “Our declared goal is promotion to League A.”

The bottom of the group is relegated to League C, with the third place in the group having to play the runner-up from League C. If Austria finishes second, the opponent will be the third Ligue A side in the promotion play-off in March 2025. After all, there is a high-quality group – European champions Italy, Belgium and France.

Rangnick and his team were kicked out of Ligue A with four points in the most recent edition of the Nations League in 2022, along with Croatia, Denmark and then-world champions France. If the team wins, it should also bring a ticket through the back door to a play-off for the last four European starting spots for the 2026 World Cup in North America – unless it is achieved through the normal World Cup qualification route in 2025.

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Rangnick insists he is not a fan of these back doors. “We will approach World Cup qualification in the same way as European Championship qualification and we want to qualify directly this way, not relying on any loopholes or other scenarios,” explained the 65-year-old. In addition, the focus at the moment is “fully focused on the euro”. Apart from Austria, Slovenia also qualified for the tournament (June 14 to July 14). The Slovenians meet Denmark, Serbia and England in Germany. Must see Holland and co.

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