Ernst Happel Stadion, Vienna
KO 7.45pm, Thursday 6th October 2016
It’s time for more qualifiers for the World Cup in Russia in 2018. From the sublime to the ridiculous, Wales follow their easiest game on paper with the hardest. Moldova were comfortably dispatched 4-0 at home but now Wales head to Vienna to face Austria.
Despite a shocking showing at Euro 2016, Austria won 9, drew 1 and lost 0 games in qualifying for that tournament, even with Russia and Sweden in their group. This is a tough team that are currently ranked 26th in world but were in the top 10 as recently as June. Like Wales they also won their opening game, 2-1 away to Georgia.
My Wales line-up
Wales will play 5-3-2. It’s what we do.
Goalkeeper: Wayne Hennessey
Steve Mandanda is now definitely Crystal Palace’s number one, which means Big Bad Wayne is on the bench for his club, but he’s the best we’ve got, so starts in my team. Add in that Danny Ward withdrew to be replaced by Barnsley’s Adam Davies, and it’s a no brainer.
Right wing back: Chris Gunter
Image Credit: Sticeri Cymreag (also check out their Wales Away stickers)
Centre back: Ben Davies
Davies has seen a bit of game time at Spurs this season, and as Tormund-alike James Collins is having a bit of a stinker at West Ham, gets the nod.
Centre back: Ashley Williams
Captain fantastic and fully ensconced in Everton’s back line, if he’s fit, he’s one of the first names on the team sheet.
Centre back: James Chester
Davies, Williams and Chester come as a unit. His club side Aston Villa are having an awful first season back in the Championship, but forget that James, we’ll always have France. Think of France James. Forget Villa. And West Brom. France, James, France!
Left wing back: Neil Taylor
Still not getting a game at Swansea, which is concerning. Chris Coleman will stick with him mind. I’d like to see Paul Dummett get some game time, but though he has excelled at left-back for Newcastle, I’m not sure if he’s a wing back. Austria away is not the time to find out. Taylor by default.
Midfield: Andy King
I don’t really rate Andy King but he gets the nod over Emyr Huws, as I think Wales will need his experience on what could be a tough night.
Midfield: Joe Ledley
That’s why. Also playing a bit for Crystal Palace now that Mike Jedinak has gone to Villa and Yohan Cabaye isn’t on song.
Midfield: Joe Allen
Beard? Check. Keeps Chickens? Check. Sublime range of passing? Check. Scored in his last 2 games for Stoke? Check. Never change Joe, never change.
Forward: Gareth Bale
Image via GIPHY
Forward: Sam Vokes
He’s playing more minutes and games than Hal Robson-Kanu is at the moment. Only thing is if Wales plan to play on the counter then HRK’s pace would be better suited to such a game plan, much more so than Vokes, who’s more of a battering ram and target man.
David Alaba is the main man for Austria. He often plays at full-back for Bayern Munich but in the international arena he’s their creative, driving force in midfield. The guy smashes it in both quite differing roles, which is a testament to the talent of this player. Another player to watch out for is the moody, ridiculously coiffured yet occasionally devastating Marco Arnautović. He’s teammates with Joe Allen though at Stoke City, so Joe will know his tricks and have him in his pocket, just like he did with Pogba on the weekend. Watford’s Sebastian Prödl can be a git of a player, and can easily go toe-to-toe with the physicality of Vokes, so keep an eye on that encounter.
Where to watch
Wales are taking 4000 fans over and if you haven’t got your flights and tickets sorted then it’s Sky Sports for you buddy. It’s on Sky Sports 1 with coverage starting at 7pm. Highlights will be on S4C at 10.30pm after the game. ITV have the rights to show highlights of Wales’ games in English, but don’t hold your breath on seeing them on Thursday night. There are highlights of England vs Malta at 11.30pm on Saturday, where they might deign to give Wales 2 minutes of airtime. So just watch Sgorio on Thursday with the subtitles on.
Wales last played Austria in 2013, a friendly at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. They squeaked a 2-1 win.
The last competitive matches were World Cup qualifiers in 2005 that Wales lost home and away. Can history tell us something? It’s gonna be tough that’s for sure. Austria will know Wales’ system but will they actively counteract it at home in front of their own fans instead of playing their own game? I think it’s gonna be a tight, cagey affair…
Austria 0 – 0 Wales
I’d love to hear your thoughts, who you think will play and what you think the score will be. Let me know in the comments below. I hope to get a preview of Wales’ home game against Georgia written before Sunday, if I do, I’ll include my thoughts about #AUTWAL in it.
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