There is still all to play for as surprise package Hungary sprung to the top of the pile with the help of a last minute equalizer against Iceland last time out. The favorites to win Group F Portugal meanwhile need a win from the final group game to secure their place in the knockout.
Hungary opened their Euro 2016 account with a 2-0 victory over Austria. Adam Szalai opened the scoring for the Hungarians on the hour mark before Zoltan Stieber doubled the lead in the closing stages.
In their second game Bernd Storck’s men rescued a point against Iceland to put a foot in the last-16 after benefitting from an 88th minute own goal. The Magyars have impressed the watching world at the tournament so far with resolute performances built around the creativity of Laszlo Kleinhiesler, Zoltan Gera and skipper Balazs Dzsudzsak.
Hungary’s opponents in the final round of group games Portugal have suffered a frustrating time at the tournament so far. In their opening game they failed to take all three points against tournament debutants Iceland. After taking the lead via Nani, the scores were level moments after the halftime break. As the game grew older, Fernando Santos’ men could not break down a spirited Iceland.
Portugal’s star man Cristiano Ronaldo criticized Icelandic celebrations after the 1-1 draw but was left red faced when he missed a penalty during the 0-0 stalemate with Austria in the game following. To add to growing annoyance, he also had a goal ruled out for off side.
Seleccao da Quinas have the potential of making it into the last-16 with a draw against Hungary but will undoubtedly be happier with recording their first win of the tournament. Hungary meanwhile are in touching distance of the knockouts and could still progress even if they are defeated.
Iceland had their hearts broken against Hungary but will be looking to put that behind them as they move on to face bottom of the group Austria in the climax of Group F.
Lars Lagerbeck’s side impressed with their robust counter-attacking football in the 1-1 versus Portugal where Birkir Bjarnason took advantage of some sloppy defending to level moments into the 2nd half.
In their European Championship debut, the Icelanders were within an inch of recording there first ever win at a major tournament against Hungary had it not been for Birkir Saevarsson’s last-gasp own goal. Gylfi Sigurdsson had previously put his side ahead from the penalty spot to take the lead into the break.
Austria meanwhile, having been dubbed the tournament dark horses, have failed to live up to expectations. The Austrians have keeper Robert Almer to thanks for keeping them in contention for the last-16 though. During the 0-0 draw with Portugal huge credit must go to the Austria Wein stopper who made a sting of fine saves to keep the scores level.
The point against Portugal will have buoyed Marcel Koller’s team’s confidence after their performance against Hungary must be one they will be keen to forget. Even with a win against Iceland, Austria have an outside chance of reaching the knockout stage. Anything but a win is likely to see Austria eliminated. Iceland meanwhile could reach the last-16 with a draw but could also top the group with a win if other results go their way.
Group F As It Stands
Adam Szalai’s first international goal against Austria wasn’t enough to keep him in the team against Iceland when Tamas Prisin was given a chance to impress; Szalai is likely to return to the team versus Portugal though.
In contrast, Zoltan Steiber’s late goal against Austria was enough to get him a start against the Icelanders and he too is likely to be handed a starting role at the expense of Sporting Kansas City’s Krisztian Nemeth.
The defensive roles are up for grabs here and Bernd Stork has a choice between Attila Fiola and Adam Lang at left back and Lang and Richard Guzmics at center-back.
The side’s key players such as Laszlo Kleinhiesler, Zoltan Gera and skipper Balazs Dzsudzsak are all likely to play starring roles.
After the draw with Iceland coach Bernd Storck was overjoyed to salvage a draw that must’ve felt like a win.
“I’m proud of my side,” he said.
“We had so much possession and played football, always trying to stretch the game. We’ve developed a lot in recent weeks and deserve these performances.”
“Iceland have a lot of experience – that’s why it was difficult for us. Considering their results in qualifying against the Czech Republic, Netherlands and Turkey, they’re a top team – that’s what you can’t forget.”
Predicted Line Up: Kiraly; Fiola, Lang, Guzmics, Kadar; Dzsudzsak, Kleinheisler, Gera, Nagy, Stieber; Szalai.
Portugal switched from a 4-4-2 diamond in the 1-1 draw with Iceland to a flat 4-4-2 against Austria. The worrying thing for Fernando Santos is that neither have been particularly successful.
Ricardo Quaresma was brought into the side to occupy the left flank against Austria and may start the next match. The versatile Andre Gomes occupied the other flank against Austria after being deployed in the middle against Iceland. Joao Moutinho will probably join him in midfield in the final group game.
In the defensive midfield role Fernando Santos will play either William Carvalho or Danilo Pereira, not both. Despite missing a penalty against Austria Cristiano Ronaldo will partner Nani up front once more
Portugal will be relying on the defensive experience of Pepe and Carvalho while hoping for a steady supply of attacking width from full-backs Vieirinha and Raphael Guerreiro.
Despite being clearly disappointed in the performances of his team so far, Portugal boss Frenando Santos is looking to put the two draws behind him and move on the Hungary, a game that he says will be a “final.”
“We can’t wallow in our own misery,” said Santos.
Adding: “There is a final to play on the 22nd, our first final of these EUROs. When we talk about the team, we can’t concentrate on how many missed chances we had – fair or unfair – this is football. It’s unfair, that’s true, but it’s useless to discuss it now because the next match is a final for us. Hungary will be happy to draw against us. They’ll be highly motivated and we need to break this wall down.”
Predicted Line Up: Rui Patricio; Vieirinha, Pepe, R. Carvalho, Guerreiro; Quaresma, Moutinho, Danilo, Gomes; Nani, Ronaldo.
Iceland don’t have any new injury worries or suspensions and are set to name an unchanged team against Austria.
Hannes Thor Halldorsson has impressed in Euro 2106 so far and will continue in between the sticks. The dynamic central midfield partnership of Aron Gunnarsson and Gylfi Sigurdsson will also continue. It s also likely that FC Augsburg striker Alfred Finnbogason will remain on the bench behind Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.
Joint Iceland coach Hemir Hallgrimsson believes that Iceland have the upper hand in being in the last group of teams to play their final group game as they will know what is necessary in order to progress as one of the best 3rd-palced teams.
“We are lucky that we are in the last group so we can see if one point is enough or if we need to go for the win,” said Hallgrimsson.
“We are in a good position as we will know the permutations before the game. We are fortunate in that respect. Even though we’ll always go for the three points it is good to know if we need to take risks.”
Predicted Line Up: Halldorsson; Saevarsson, Sigurdsson, Arnason, Skulason; Gudmundsson, Gunnarsson, Sigurdsson, Bjarnason; Sigthorsson, Bodvarsson.
After the surprise 2-0 defeat to Hungary, Austria shuffled their team due to the injuries of central playmaker Zlato Junuzovic and defender Aleksander Dragovic. Marc Janko also lost his place in the team.
In attack Martin Harnik moved to the striker role leading to Marcel Salzbiter to be called in to fill the void on the left. Key man David Alaba was shifted into the central attacking midfield position in place of Junuzovic while Stefan Ilsnaker filled one of two holding midfield roles in the 4-2-3-1 formation.
Sebastian Prodl meanwhile deputized for the injured Dragovic. Austria’s line up in their final group game will depend on late fitness tests to both Junuzovic and Dragovic.
Austria boss Marcel Koller reveled that he was delighted to see Ronaldo’s penalty rebound off the post against Portugal but is adamant his side need to improve their performances.
“If he [Ronaldo] had scored, it probably would have meant that we’d be going home, so obviously it was good for us. We were well-organized against him, as you have to be against a world-class player. We’re happy that he was offside for his headed goal, too,” said Koller.
Adding: “We can’t always dream about the qualification campaign. That’s been over for a long time and we have to focus on what’s in front of us. In the finals there’s no weak opponent and we have to react accordingly. With the point we’re still alive and now it goes on. Now the spirit is going to be different; you need self-belief to be able to play well. Ilsanker and Baumagartlinger, Arnautović and Sabitzer for example were very committed in their defensive work.”
Predicted Line Up: Almer; Klein, Hinteregger, Prodl, Fuchs; Ilsanker, Baumgartlinger, Sabitzer, Alaba, Arnautovic; Harnik.