Austria finished second in Group A1 of the UEFA Nations League but could not hold on to victory as fourth-placed France came back in the final stages through Kylian Mbappe to secure their second point of the season in a 1-1 draw on Friday.
Austria had shown their ability to punish generosity in their 3-0 win over Croatia, and Andreas Weimann pounced when given space in front of goal, slotting in Konrad Laimer’s incisive 37th-minute cross after Marko Arnautovic’s deception.
In the first half, Karim Benzema came closest for France, testing Patrick Pentz, who produced a superb reflex save to clear the Real Madrid top scorer’s header.
Hugo Lloris, France’s captain, had warned that his team was under pressure after taking one point from their first two group games. During a tense second half, Kingsley Coman appeared to be on his way to relieving the holders’ frustration, only to curl a close-range shot over the crossbar.
With his team dominating possession but struggling to break down a tenacious home defence, Didier Deschamps substituted Mbappe for Antoine Griezmann shortly after the hour mark.
With seven minutes remaining, the substitute rewarded the decision, gliding on to Christopher Nkunku’s perceptive pass before racing inside the penalty area and lashing a finish past Pentz at the near post.
Pentz turned Mbappe’s strike onto the woodwork as the holders pushed for a winner. Austria earned a point, moving two points behind section leaders Denmark.
Ralf Rangnick, Austria coach after the match said: “Why do we play football? To have fun, of course. But it is more fun to win. We conceded two unnecessary goals against Denmark and France, both after set-pieces we had.”
“I know we played well but there’s no reason to congratulate us when we were so close to three points. France were able to put us under a lot of pressure but, until the equaliser, they did not have that many clear chances. We have to recover quickly now, then we will try to take three points from Denmark.”
While Didier Deschamps, France’s coach opined that three points for his side would have been more than possible. “Three points would have been more than possible. It is a pity. Many of our players are exhausted but this is no excuse. I am glad that Kylian Mbappe was fit for 30 minutes; he is very important for our team.”
Austria has scored in eight of their last ten UEFA Nations League games. France has won five of their last seven UEFA Nations League games played outside of France.
(Inputs from ANI)