Fans around the world are eagerly waiting for the start of Euro 2016, and with less than 24 hours to kick-off of the biggest spectacle in European football, TheHardTackle analyses the teams of Group F comprising Austria, Portugal, Iceland and Hungary – how they could fare, and the probable outcome of the group.
Highlights: This group does not have much to offer in terms of stars on show, barring Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, and David Alaba of Austria. Iceland and Hungary make their debut in the Euro’s after inspiring displays in the qualifying rounds. However, they do not have enough firepower to contain Portugal and Austria, and group F has little potential to spring a surprise.
Fernando Santos’ 23-man squad for Euro 2016 can be touted as the strongest Portuguese squad since the golden generation of the early 2000’s, which boasted the likes of Luis Figo, Ricardo Carvalho and Deco. Twelve years and two European Championships later, Portugal have a new generation coming through and that means there will be some exciting talent on show. Renato Sanches and Joao Mario will be looking to impress in their first major tournament with the national side, with the latter expected to shine after stellar performances for Sporting Lisbon this season. Mario has the ability to spot an intelligent run and that coupled with his flawless technique, makes him Portugal’s best midfielder.
However, abundance of young talent will mean almost half of Portugal’s starting eleven have below 20 caps. It could prove to be the decisive factor after they get out of the group and face the likes of Germany, Spain or France. But Portugal have been there before and getting out of the group stage, at the very least, should not be a problem for them.
Probable starting IX: Patricio, Pepe, R Carvalho, Vierinha, Eliseu, W Carvalho, Moutinho, Joao Mario, Quaresma, Gomes, Ronaldo
Probable group finish: First
Hungary have not played an international tournament since 1986. Their squad is one of the weakest of Euro 2016, with goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi the only player to be playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues. Balázs Dzsudzsák, with his technical ability and experience in Russia and Holland, is the player to watch out for. Zoltán Gera could be the impact player, but at 37, it is difficult to expect anything spectacular from the former West Bromwich Albion man.
Adam Nagy, 20, has been playing football at the senior level for less than a year, but nonetheless, the greenhorn was instrumental in Hungary’s Euro qualifying journey. The Ferencvaros midfielder is a wonderful distributor of the ball and has been turning some heads with his performances in the past year.
Hungary have done fantastically well to reach France, but haven’t got enough in them to get out of the group stages, and it’s fair to say, Bernd Storck’s team could struggle to trouble the points table.
Probable starting IX: Kiraly, Guzmics, Lang, Fiola, Kadar, Gera, Nagy, Dzsudzsak, Nemeth, Kleinhiesler, Szalai
Probable group finish: Fourth
Iceland is the smallest nation ever to qualify for the Euros, with a population of just 3,30,000 people. The European Championship debutants have two coaches, Lars Lagerbäck and Heimir Hallgrímsson, with the duo being in charge since 2011. They did well after finishing second in the qualifying group below Turkey, and at the cost of Holland. Eidur Gudjohnsen, 20 years after he made his debut for the national side, will finally get to play in a major tournament with his country. The 37-year old’s experience will come in handy when he teams up with Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Sigurdsson is Swansea City’s play-maker and only the second Icelander to score 10 or more goals in the Premier League. He is proving himself at the highest level and will play a crucial role for his team. If Iceland are to give themselves a chance of qualifying to the round of 16, the 26-year old metronome needs to be on song.
Probable starting IX: Haldorsson, Arnasson, R Sigurdsson, Saevarsson, Skulason, Gunnarsson, G Sigurdsson, Gudmundsson, B Bjarnason, Sigthorsson, Finbogason
Probable group finish: Third
Winning 9 out of their 10 group games in qualification, Austria finished 8 points clear of Russia. Marcel Koller has been an instrumental figure in his team’s success, as he introduced a 4-2-3-1 formation when he became in charge in October 2011.
Without the shadow of doubt, David Alaba will be the key player for Austria at the Euros. . The 23-year old already has 45 caps for is country, and is widely regarded as one of the best left-backs in the world. But he plays as a central midfielder for his national side, and his set-piece ability is something to take note of. Austria are expected to get out of the group stages, but not too far ahead in the tournament.
Probable starting IX : Almer, Dragovic, Hinteregger, Klein, Fuchs, Baumgartlinger, Alaba, Harnik, Junozovic, Arnautovic, Janko
Probable group finish : Second
Is it Ronaldo’s final throw of the dice to win a major tournament with Portugal?
In spite of a fairly decent squad, Portugal’s fate rests on one man’s muscular shoulders – A certain Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid superstar scored another staggering 51 goals this season, guiding los blancos to their 11th Champions League success. He could become the first player to score in four European Championships, and looking at the other three teams of group F, one would imagine it is only a matter of time before he achieves that feat. The 31-year old was on fire in the qualifying stages, scoring five goals in six games.
Ronaldo marshaled his troops to the semifinal stage in Euro 2012, only to get knocked out on penalties by eventual winners Spain. That is as close as he’s come to winning a major tournament with his country after the painful loss to Greece on home soil in the Euro 2004 final. The former Manchester United man had a few injuries towards the end of the season and with his physical prowess on the decline, Ronaldo knows he cannot pass up another opportunity to win a major title for his country.