A starting place can finally be secured with a home win on October 13 in a fully packed Happelstadion against the Belgians, who are ahead of Austria in the Group F table due to a better goal difference. Then there are the away matches against underdogs Azerbaijan (October 16) and Estonia (November 16). Rangnick explained: “We now want to win against Belgium in order to play the last two matches at the top of the league.”
The fact that his side are in good standing after their guest appearance at Friends Arena was thanks to the clear improvement after the break. Before half-time, the Austrian side, who had won 4-1 at the same stadium nearly eight years ago, faltered several times. “We had to defend a lot, and the second half was better,” Rangnick said. “In the end we are very happy with the performance, but above all of course with the result.”
During the break, the 65-year-old asked his team to build more play through the full-backs and ordered Michael Gregoric, top scorer in the 1-0 match, to move back to No. 10. This should pay off. “Then we had moments in transition, and it was no coincidence that we created the first and third goals through the full-backs. The way the boys did that in the second half was fantastic,” Rangnick said.
There was praise for Gregorić (“He’s on a roll”) and double-scorer Marko Arnautović (“He justified his line-up perfectly”). Rangnick, who stumbled before the break, said that Marcel Sabitzer and Konrad Laimer “were much better in the game in the second half,” dedicating roses to the entire team. “The team is always getting involved in things that it has never known before. We are exactly on the path to where we should be.”
Rangnick rated the appearance against Solna, along with a 3-0 win in the Croatian Nations League on his debut in June 2022, as the best performances in competitive away matches during his tenure. Meanwhile, the national coach put an end to the euphoria. “I still see enough room for improvement. It was really good today, but it’s still far from perfect.”
At least for the nearly 1,000 ÖFB fans who attended, it was a perfect evening – they celebrated David Alaba and co long after the end of the match, and Rangnick’s chants could also be heard. While Marcel Kohler allowed himself to be lifted into the air eight years ago, Rangnick refrained from making grand gestures of celebration. The coach said about the behavior of the technical staff in the minutes after the final whistle: “These moments belong only to the team, not to anyone else, and that is why we remained very discreet behind the team.”
The next concert with fans could take place on October 13, and Rangnick is already looking forward to it. “It’s a lot of fun, not just with the boys, but also with the staff. A really good team has been put together.” Now the team captain is hoping he can make the most of the next session. Almost all of the team’s players were available against Sweden, only Christoph Baumgartner had minor thigh problems and was therefore not included.
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