France, Spain and Italy face significant challenges when the European Qualifiers resume, while a place at UEFA EURO 2024 is at stake as Austria welcome Belgium.
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France caught the Netherlands cold on Matchday 1, and Spain and Italy are also in search of the right responses on Matchdays 7 and 8 of the European Qualifiers for UEFA EURO 2024.
UEFA.com identifies the main talking points in the next two rounds of fixtures.
Dutch fired up for France rematch
A virus-hit Oranje conceded twice in the first ten minutes and went on to lose 4-0 to Les Bleus in their opening Group B game, but have made up some ground since, building on 3-0 wins against Gibraltar and Greece with a 2-1 success in the Republic of Ireland in September. "It's a really important win," concluded forward Wout Weghorst.
Victory at home against France would represent a significant success as Ronald Koeman's side aim for the finals, but if their opponents have a 100% record in the group so far (five wins from five, no goals conceded) a friendly loss to an out-of-sorts Germany in their last game has shaken Didier Deschamps' side. "We're not used to losing," said the coach, though he added: "You don't know whether we would have won if Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud had been playing."
Austria welcome Belgium for a finals showdown
There is little to choose between the top two in Group F; both come into this encounter in Vienna with 13 points, a 1-1 draw in Brussels the only game of the campaign in which either have dropped points. Austria ended September with a flourish thanks to a 3-1 success in Sweden. "Now we can breathe a bit," said coach Ralf Rangnick. "We have got a really good situation in the group."
They may not breathe easily, though, as they mull over the prospect of taking on the European Qualifiers' eight-goal top scorer Romelu Lukaku (who scored a beauty in their last encounter). A win for either side would mean qualification, but with an encounter with Sweden to follow their trip to Vienna, Domenico Tedesco knows the Red Devils still have work to do: "Nothing is certain yet. We have to go our own way. We have a tough camp in October."
Spain and Italy seek return victories
"I'm happy because there's reason to be," said Spain coach Luis de la Fuente after September's 6-0 Group A win against Cyprus. "I'm an optimist; we have marvellous players at our disposal." On Matchday 7, he will be hoping those good vibes can help his side to avenge their shock 2-0 loss in Scotland earlier in the campaign, and ideally follow that up with a defeat of Erling Haaland and Martin Ødegaard's Norway.
"Smile Italy," was the Gazzetta dello Sport headline after a 2-1 win against Ukraine in their first home game under new coach Luciano Spalletti, but the smiles may not entirely reach their eyes unless they can make amends for a Matchday 1 home loss to England on Matchday 8. Gareth Southgate's side are six points clear in Group C coming into October, but that lead would be reduced to nothing if Italy can get six points from their next two games.
European Qualifiers in October
All kick-offs 20:45 CET unless stated
Thursday 12 October 2023
*Israel's home meeting with Switzerland has been postponed
Friday 13 October 2023
Group B: Netherlands vs France, Republic of Ireland vs Greece
Group F: Austria vs Belgium, Estonia vs Azerbaijan (18:00)
Group J: Iceland vs Luxembourg, Liechtenstein vs Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal vs Slovakia
Saturday 14 October 2023
Group C: Ukraine vs North Macedonia (15:00), Italy vs Malta
Group G: Bulgaria vs Lithuania (18:00), Hungary vs Serbia
Group H: Northern Ireland vs San Marino (15:00), Slovenia vs Finland (18:00), Denmark vs Kazakhstan
Sunday 15 October 2023
Group A: Georgia vs Cyprus (15:00), Norway vs Spain
Group D: Türkiye vs Latvia, Wales vs Croatia
Group E: Czechia vs Faroe Islands (18:00), Poland vs Moldova
Group I: Switzerland vs Belarus (18:00), Kosovo vs Israel, Romania vs Andorra
Monday 16 October 2023
Group B: Gibraltar vs Republic of Ireland, Greece vs Netherlands
Group F: Azerbaijan vs Austria (18:00), Belgium vs Sweden
Group J: Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Portugal, Iceland vs Liechtenstein, Luxembourg vs Slovakia