Euro 2016 Group F by DamirJ
Last group F at this edition of EURO will start on Tuesday evening and we will see the national team of Portugal as the first favorite to clinch the group, playing together with Austria, Hungary and Iceland.
Tournament after tournament, Portugal is trying to make a difference and make more important result, but always something comes up for them and the team fails in the end. They were really close to do something more meaningful when they hosted EURO back in 2004, but lost the finals to Greece. Beyond that, they count three third positions (1984, 2000 and 2012), reaching also the last eight stage back in 1996 and 2008, obviously having improvement in recent decades.
The team comfortably secured the first position in their qualifying group, having 7-0-1 record in the process. However, they didn't start the path in a right way, suffering 1:0 shocking defeat at home against Albania, defeat that led Paulo Bento to being sacked, while Fernando Santos was brought instead of him. Since then, Portugal made perfect seven victories in a row and took the first position easily.
The team has six friendly matches since the moment they secured qualification, having overall 3-0-3 record. Most important, their recent matches were a 1:0 narrow defeat to England and demolition of Estonia 7:0 few days before the start of EURO in their last rehearsal.
Goalkeepers: Rui Patricio (Sporting), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Eduardo (Dinamo Zagreb)
Defenders: Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Pepe (Real Madrid), Jose Fonte (Southampton), Raphael Guerreiro (Lorient), Ricardo Carvalho (Monaco), Vieirinha (Wolsburg), Eliseu (Benfica), Cedric Soares (Southampton)
Midfielders: Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Joao Mario (Sporting), Danilo Pereira (Porto), William Carvalho (Sporting), Gomes Andre (Valencia), Renato Sanches (Bayern), Adrien Silva (Sporting)
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Eder (Lille), Nani (Fenerbahce), Rafa Silva (Braga), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas).
When we speak about Portuguese national team, whole conversation begins and ends with Cristiano Ronaldo. Superstar from Real Madrid is still looking for his first international title, the only thing that miss in his rich career. This is probably the last chance for him to get such title, since the World Cup is even more difficult competition, while he will be thirty-five years old in the next EURO. Question mark would be his fatigue due to extended obligations with Champions League, however he assures that he is fully fit for the start of EURO.
As for the use of Cristiano, Santos seems to prefer him at the top of attack, while the usual formation he insists on is 4-4-2, a while he believes a move with Ronaldo will be beneficial for the team. Variety of dangerous players and use of their positions is something that adds quality to Portuguese, while the defensive lineup is something that they'll need to take care about.
Of course, there is a lack of real number nine in the team, since the only one is Eder from Lille, who had a decent season there, however most likely part of Ronaldo in attack will be Nani, who is more of a winger than a real striker, moreover, he comes from a modest season with Turkish giant Fenerbahce. In case Santos plays in 4-3-3 formation, than it's logical to see Eder upfront with Ronaldo and Nani on his sides.
Their midfield might be missing real stars, but the roster is offering several more than decent solutions with players coming from full seasons. There is a mixture of experience with players like Moutinho and young guys, like Renato Sanches, who already became the most expensive player to leave the Portuguese league signing for Bayern Munich from Benfica recently.
As for defensive lineup, there's is plenty of experience and quality in the position of central defenders, so Santos will need to choose either Ricardo Carvalho (Monaco), either Fonte (who was irreplaceable in Southampton this season, or Bruno Alves, to partner Pepe in the central of defense. As for full backs, as every year, Portuguese have plenty of attacking characteristics on that position, with probably two almost equal solutions on each side - Vieirinha from Wolfsburg and Guerreiro from Lorient. Rui Patricio is sure to be between the posts.
Portuguese should be relying on their fast wings this time, using counter attack as probably their deadly weapon. Surely that Santos will try to convert set pieces into goals as well, especially since he had plenty of tall players in the roster. However, absences of Fabio Coentrao and Danny will not be easily covered.
Manager Fernando Santos:
Fernando Santos took over the national team of his country back in September of 2014, when the federation got separate ways with Paulo Bento after their shocking defeat to Albania in the qualifiers opening round. Since then, he change the mentality of the team to a winning one and secured their ticket comfortably with seven victories. As for all matches, including friendly games, the Portuguese has 11-0-5 record for now.
No doubt that he is one of the most experienced managers at EURO, having wast knowledge from many teams coached during his career. He is known for a good progress with Greek national team back at World Cup 2014 when the Greeks got excluded in last sixteen phase to Costa Rica on penalties.
Portugal will probably be one of the biggest question marks of the tournament. No doubt that they are one of the great powers of the continent and that they should be progressing to the knockout stage from the first position. This time they'll have even ideal coach for such tournaments, since Santos has proven to be a coach that knows how to get right result even when not performing up to the full potential.
Taking Portugal to have over 5.5 points with odds around of 1.65 might be worth a shot, while the overall feeling is that Portuguese could go far in the tournament. Portugal and Austria together to progress further with odds 2.00 is surely worth a try, while Cristiano Ronaldo to be the top goalscorer of the tournament shouldn't go unnoticed as well.
This will be only second participation for Austria at the final event of EURO, while the nation anyway didn't have real success so far at biggest events. First time when they played at EURO was back in 2008, when they actually co-hosted it together with Switzerland. However, the team counts much more appearances at World Cups, seven, with the last time being back in 1998, again in France.
Austria was drawn in highly demanding group with rivals such as Sweden, Russia and Montenegro, but the team reacted perfectly well and managed to get a 9-1-0 record, finishing naturally first at the standings. They managed to get nine victories in a row, after a 1:1 draw against Sweden and had one of the best defensive lineups in the qualifying process, conceding only five goals. However, from then on, the team had moderate results in friendly matches in last six months, counting three defeats, to Switzerland, Turkey and Holland and two victories, over Albania and Malta.
Goalkeepers: Robert Almer (Austria Wien), Heinz Lindner (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ramazan Ozcan (Ingolstadt)
Defenders: Christian Fuchs (Leicester), Sebastian Prodl (Watford), Aleksandar Dragovic (Dynamo Kyiv), Florian Klein (Stuttgart), Markus Suttner (Ingolstadt), Martin Hinteregger (Gladbach), Kevin Wimmer (Tottenham)
Midfielders: Martin Harnik (Stuttgart), Zlatko Junuzovic (Werder Bremen), David Alaba (Bayern), Julian Baumgartlinger (Mainz), Gyorgy Garics (Darmstadt), Jakob Jantscher (Luzern), Marcel Sabitzer (Leipzig), Stefan Ilsanker (Leipzig) , Alessandro Schopf (Schalke)
Forwards: Marko Arnautovic (Stoke), Marc Janko (Basel), Rubin Okotie (1860 Munchen), Lukas Hinterseer (Ingolstadt).
Austria will almost surely be playing in 4-2-3-1 formation at this EURO, throwing the weight on the midfield area since they have plenty of quality that with very quick players. Goalkeeper Almer should be between the posts and he remains the only guy playing in domestic league, with most of them working in Bundesliga actually.
Team has quite reliable defensive duo in the center, since Dragovic from Dynamo Kev partners Sebastian Prodl from Watford and surely gives a backbone to their team. Christian Fuchs should be left back and he will be giving plenty of attacking options, since he played a really important part in creation of the game during the qualifiers.
Team looks above average for the midfield option as well and their depth there will probably give a chance for coach to change formations during the match. Defensive midfielder should be Baumgartlinger from Mainz who should be having also partially a creative role. While the team should also be having three quite offensive midfielders, in Harnik, Junuzovic and Arnautovic. Flank with Arnautovic and Fuchs might create many problems to most of the nations at this EURO.
As for the attacking line, we should expect striker Janko to be their typical number nine, after he comes from a really great season in Basel. Behind him there is no real option as replacement, since Okotie from Munich or Hinterseer from Ingolstadt can't be considered as players at his level.
Manager Marcel Koller:
He is at the bench of national team since November 2011 and is surely the most responsible person for great improvement in their squad in recent years. He has managed to raise the national team rankings from 70th position to top team teams at FIFA standings. Till now, he worked as a coach in Switzerland where he took two championships, but also in Germany, in Koln and Bochum to be precise.
Austria is one of the teams with biggest potential and are surely looking into nice future. Their team looks as a unit, since most of the players perform in Bundesliga and do know each other very well. Most of them are long time in the national team, however lack of experience at such tournaments might be a problem for them at knockout stage. Their puzzling results in friendly matches are yo worry about, as it remains to be seen whether coach Koller corrected it.
Their progress from the group shouldn't be questionable, even though many will depend on their first game against Hungarians. Janko to be the top goal scorer of Austrian team probably isn't that bad option, while odds of around 1.25 for Austrians to progress the first stage are more than realistic.
Hungary was quite a force in European football in distant past, since the team was a finalist of World Cup back in 1938 and 1954, also being third at EURO in 1964, however they are far away from that bright past now. Their most recent presence at EURO was back in 1972, when they finished at the fourth position, while the last performance at the World Cup took place in 1986.
Hungarians were actually drawn in a bit easier group, where many teams had their chance to qualify since it was one of the most equal, with opponents like Northern Ireland, Romania, Greece, Finland and Faroe Islands. They didn't perform particularly well, ending the path on third position and with actually quite modest 4-4-2 record, having to play additional matches with Norway. However, during these two games the team responded way better, managing to take both victories, 1:0 and 2:1, celebrating their return to biggest events after many years.
As for the friendly matches, they three since the won over Norway, drawing against Ivory Coast and Croatia, but losing to Germany 2:0 in the most recent one.
Goalkeepers: Gabor Kiraly (Haladas), Denes Dibusz (Ferencvaros), Peter Gulacsi (Leipzig)
Defence: Adam Lang (Videoton), Mihaly Korhut (Debrecen), Tamas Kadar (Lech Poznan), Attila Fiola (Puskas Akademia), Richard Guzmics (Wisla Krakow), Barnabas Bese (MTK), Roland Juhasz (Videoton)
Midfielders: Akos Elek (Diosgyori), Balazs Dzsudzsak (Bursaspor), Adam Nagy (Ferencvaros), Zoltan Gera (Ferencvaros), Gergo Lovrencsics (Lech Poznan), Laszlo Kleinheisler (Werder Bremen), Adam Pinter (Ferencvaros), Zoltan Stieber (Nurnberg)
Forwards: Adam Szalai (Hannover), Krisztian Nemeth (Al-Gharafa), Daniel Bode (Ferencvaros), Nemanja Nikolic (Legia), Tamas Priskin (Slovan Bratislava).
It's no secret that Hungary has one of the weakest rosters in the competition when looking at their names. They are several players who are playing in domestic league, which surely is of a lower level, while the players in foreign leagues are not making much of difference in their clubs. They have few younger players too, trying to introduce them slowly in the team and make future stars out of them.
Exception here makes their top player, Balasz Dzsudzsak who comes from a pretty good season in Bursaspor and he is expected to be their first star at the competition. Midfielder should be covered still with Zoltan Gera, who is now playing in domestic league, but surely does have still enough quality to covert the position of defensive midfielder and somehow, to be one of organizers of their game play.
Adam Szalai should be one of the options in attack, while other players in attack are similar to him - can't bring much of creativity if needed, but are mostly good executors in front of opponents goal. As for the defensive lineup, there's no very known name, while the goalkeeper remains to be Gabor Kiraly.
Hungarians will almost surely be lined up in defensive formation here and we can't expect much of surprise from them. They will surely try to minimize every risk about conceding a goal, while will seek for chances mostly using counter attacks and set-plays. They will be defensive against Austria and Portugal, but it remains to be seen how will they approach the game against Iceland, against a side which they surely could win.
Manager Bernd Storck:
German technician is at the bench of Hungarian national team since July 2015, so it can be said that the coach is quite fresh here. He replaced Pal Dardai who wanted to devote himself only to obligations with Hertha Berlin. German coach has 3-4-1 record so far in official matches. Apart from being parts of some solid sides, the German surely lacks experience at such big events.
Their roster is poor and players aren't having really huge experience in big leagues, while the coach isn't having really rich CV. Apart from that, they actually have nothing to lose here and have the freedom not to have any kind of pressure - something that should only work in their favor. They were doing well in the defense in recent years and I expect the same from them - at least to try.
Under 3 points earned for Hungary might be a good bet with realistic 1.90 odds, with the bookies considering them to be first favorites to finish at the bottom of the group with odds 2.00. No doubt that this scenario will be judged in a match against Iceland.
Iceland was always underdog in international events, even when speaking about qualifiers and that fact is that this is their first appearance at the finals of big events. They were also close to secure the ticket for the World Cup back in 2014, but Croats defeated them in additional play-off matches.
They were one of the biggest surprised during the qualifiers, as no one expected them to finish inside the top three in their group since the team left behind both Turkey and Netherlands, having overall record 6-2-2.
Since then, team had eight test matches before EURO, while the results weren't that good, having six defeats and two victories. The truth is that they were choosing strong opponents, but still found a way to improve a bit in their most recent friendly match, when the side won over Liechtenstein 4:0.
Goalkeepers: Hammes Halldorsson (Bodo Glimt), Ogmundur Kristinsson (Hammarby), Ingvar Jonsson (Sandefjord)
Defenders: Birkir Saevarsson (Hammarby), Haukur Hauksson (AIK), Hjortur Hermannsson (Goteborg), Sverrir Ingason (Lokeren), Ragnar Sigurosson (Krasnodar), Kari Arnason (Malmo), Hordur Magnusson (Cesena), Ari Skulason (Odense)
Midfielders: Johann Gudmundsson (Charlton), Birkir Bjarnason (Basel), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea), Runar Sigurjonsson (Sundsvall), Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff), Theodor Bjarnason (Aarhus), Emil Hallfredsson (Udineze), Arnor Traustason (Norrkoping)
Forwards: Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (Nantes), Alfreo Finnbogason (Augsburg), Jon Boovarsson (Kaiserslautern), Eidur Gudjohnsen (Molde).
They were one of the biggest surprises in the qualifiers and now the team could be very dangerous in case someone underestimate them. They looked very good in the defense during the whole process and maybe more important, looked really good in all lines, acting more as a unit. Their lines were coherent, while the dominant element was the speed of their wingers and good execution in front of opponents goal.
Players that stands out is surely Gylfi Sigurdsson in the midfield, who comes from a really good season in Premier League and is expected to stand out here as well. He will probably be given more of a free role in the midfield, as the players should answer both defensive and creative tasks. Good options in attack will be Sigthorsson from Nantes, but also Boovarsson from Kaiserslautern, options that should help Finnbogason from Augsburg and their legend Eidur Gudjohnsen who now plays in Molde, after his spell in China.
They are expected to play in 4-4-2 formation, with fast players that can threaten from any situation. On the negative side, their defensive lineup isn't having much of experience at such level and will probably be the weakest link at EURO. They are still, however, known for their strength and being quite good with the ball to their feet. It remains to be seen whether the lack of experience will play important role for them.
Managers Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson:
Duo Lagerback - Hallgrimsson is at the position of their national team head coach department since October 2011 and it's obvious that they had important role in their success. The team is playing much better in recent years, since they looked very competitive in previous two qualifying stages - losing to Croats in play-offs for World Cup and now making historical success by reaching the EURO.
Iceland is having close to 330.000 inhabitants and it's the least populous country that has ever reaching the finals of EURO championship. So, the participation here is huge success for them and similar to Hungary, they won't be having much of pressure. Their possible qualification will be probably decided in a game against Hungary, so they might choose not to reveal everything in a opening game against Portugal against which they anyway have little chances to do something more positive.