Soccer-'Make them suffer' - Assured Austria promise courage against mighty France

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifier - Group F - Austria v Estonia - Raiffeisen Arena, Linz, Austria - March 27, 2023 Austria coach Ralf Rangnick before the match REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - Austria are convinced they are strong enough to cause a major upset against twice winners France when they start their Euro 2024 campaign on Monday, with the in-form side certain they can shut out Les Bleus' big names and snatch all three points.

Austria have won only one of their last 10 encounters with the 2018 world champions but are bursting with confidence after being defeated in only one of their past 16 matches over a 19-month spell that included victories over Italy and Germany.

"That is crucial tomorrow, that we will be courageous, that we are convinced of our own strength," Austria's German coach Ralf Rangnick said on Sunday ahead of the Group D clash.

"What's really vital is the way that we perform tomorrow, not the way that France plays, or whether they are a little bit better or a little bit worse ... it's only about us."

He added: "We prepared for over two years for this day. It's finally starting for us. We're really excited. There's joy above everything else."

Rangnick has been credited with turning his young team into a formidable force, with their high press strategy rattling defences and helping Austria to win six of their eight qualifying matches.

The Austrians face lethal forward Kylian Mbappe, who has yet to score in a European Championship after a barren 2020 tournament that ended in France's shock second-round exit on penalties to Switzerland.

Rangnick said Mbappe was among the world's greatest, but just one player in 11.

"With our style of playing we have to counter him and the whole French team, we have to make sure that he doesn't receive as many balls as he likes," Rangnick said.

"We know from our own strengths that we can win this match."

Versatile midfielder Konrad Laimer echoed his coach's view that France can be beaten if Austria stick to their own game.

"We know if we can do that, we can hurt any team, we can make any opponent suffer," Laimer said.

"It's really crucial that when you play against teams such as France, that you have to take the superstars out and that you stay calm and in control in possession in order to become dangerous."

Netherlands secured a deserved 2-1 comeback victory over Poland in the opening Group D match on Sunday.

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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