Austria vs Serbia by DamirJ
Austrians are entering last qualifying phase knowing that they can't get the second position even though the mathematical chances do exist. Sitting only at fourth position and with nine points earned, they are five points behind Wales and four points behind Republic of Ireland, knowing that their chances do not actually exist in reality.
Atmosphere around the national team is far away from perfect, with few players not playing this time for the Austrians, mostly due the fact that they are disappointed and that these matches don't matter much for the team. In last qualifying window they lost away to Wales 1:0 and then just took a point in a home match against Georgia in a 1:1 draw lowering their chances completely for the second position.
In comparison to previous few call-ups, Austrians will be without goalkeeper Robert Almer (33/0, Austria Wien), defenders Sebastian Podl (64/4, Watford), Florian Klein (45/0, Stuttgart), Kew Wimer (8/0, Stoke City), midfielders Martin Harnik (68/15, Hannover), David Alaba (59/11, Bayern), Zlatko Junuzovic (55/7, Werder), Alessandro Schopf (12/2, Schalke) and forward Marcel Sabitzer (28/4, Leipzig).
Serbia didn't show some amazing football during the qualifiers, but looked steady enough during the process to deservedly now have a great chance to end the qualification at first position with the direct ticket for Russia. They were having steady performances during the path, combining five victories and three draws for now that puts them at first place with four points more than second placed Wales.
This means that they need a victory here in order to secure the first position, but a point would do decent job for them as well, since the Serbs meet Georgia at home in the last round. However, with good morale around their team and with the current situation they have in group, there's no reason for them not to play a bit more relaxed and try to get all three here.
In comparison to previous few call-ups, Serbs will miss defenders Jagos Vukovic (7/0, Olympiacos), Uros Spajic (5/0, Anderlecht), midfielders Zoran Tosic (76/11, Partizan) and Ljubomir Fejsa (23/0, Benfica).
First game has ended as a 3:2 victory for Serbia and similar score wouldn't surprise me again. Serbs are the biggest minority in Vienna (where the game is played) and second biggest in Austria (next to Germans) and with a very low interest of Austrian fans for this one, everyone expects Serbia to have more than friendly atmosphere on the stadium. This can easily turn out to be Serbian celebration of progress to World Cup in a bit of carnival atmosphere for them.