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UEFA Euro 2016: Group F Preview
By Brodey Sheppard - June 13, 2016
On paper Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal are the team to beat after finishing top of their qualifying group. However, Austria surprised everyone by topping Russia and Sweden in their pool, tallying 28 points along the way. Iceland and Hungary won’t be pushovers either as Group F is shaping up to be one of the more intriguing in the group stages.
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Euro 2016: Portugal
After losing their opening qualifying match to Albania, Portugal had a seven match winning streak to top their group. Ronaldo was the man of the hour during qualification as he bagged five goals. Without Ronaldo, however, Portugal struggled mightily to score goals. Portugal scored a mere 11 goals in qualification, the lowest of any team to top their group.
Portugal's Danger man
Portugal must get a big performance out of Real Madrid forward Ronaldo if they expect to go far in the tournament. However, coming off a gruelling La Liga and Champions League campaign, it is undetermined how fresh Ronaldo is currently. Keep in mind, Ronaldo fought a thigh injury late in the season. If the Portuguese star is fit, he will be relied upon to score the team’s goals and create them.
This is a very thin looking Portugal side. Other than Ronaldo, the forwards that have been selected by coach Fernando Santos are far from goal getting. Nani, Rafa Silva Ricardo Quaresma and Eder make up the other forwards. Where will Portugal get goals if Ronaldo isn’t on form? No one knows. If the Portuguese don’t score, which is questionable, they may very well struggle to finish top of the group. They should make the knockout stages, unless something catastrophic happens. Once in the knockout round, it will be all about who Portugal come up against. Current odds to win tournament: 19.00
Euro 2016: Iceland
Euro 2016 will mark the first major championship Iceland have reached. Until recent time, Iceland has been one of the minnows of European football. However, after making the World Cup 2014 playoffs, Iceland have enjoyed quite a bit of success, and the team and supporters will savour every minute of the tournament. Iceland kept six clean sheets in qualifying and defeated the Netherlands both home and away. Which shows the team can definitely defend. The Icelanders will be a difficult proposition in France and have an excellent chance at getting through to the knockout round.
Iceland's Danger man
Swansea City midfielder Gylfi Sigurosson led all players in Iceland’s qualifying group in goals. The midfielder can create goals just as well as he can score them. He will be their creative spark in midfield playing in a more attacking role, similar to what he does at club level. If he is asked to do the dirty work, however, Sigurosson can do it. The midfielder averaged 1.2 tackles per game during the English Premier League season.
There is no reason Iceland can’t finish third. To reach first or second will take plenty of luck, and Portugal and Austria should be too good for Iceland to reach either. Third is very realistic, and a strong performance could get them into the next round. Current odds to win tournament: 151.00
Euro 2016: Austria
Nine wins, one draw and zero losses saw Austria upset the odds and win their qualifying group outright. Giving up a mere five goals, Austria scored 22 times with striker Marc Janko leading the way with seven. Meanwhile the likes of Marko Arnautovic popped up with three and midfielder David Alaba scored four.
Many of Austria’s players are currently playing for clubs in Germany, though the likes of Arnautovic and Christian Fuchs play in the English Premier League. Austria is made up of quality veteran players, and after a solid qualifying campaign, are set for big Euro 2016 performance.
Austria's Danger man
Alaba is usually in Bayern Munich’s defence, yet at international level, Austria manager Marcel Koller prefers to have him in midfield. Alaba is excellent on the ball and is well versed at making timely tackles in midfield. He also pops up with important goals, hence the four he had in qualifying.
Compared to Portugal, Austria are a balanced team. The Austrians don’t rely on one player quite like the Portuguese, and their ability to spread goals, should see them top the group. But Austria won’t stop there. The Austrians are a dark horse, and have every chance to reach the quarter-finals and beyond. Current odds to win tournament: 41.00
Euro 2016: Hungary
Hungary make their first European Championship appearance since 1972, and feature a squad with 12 players that play their domestic football in Hungary. The Hungarians qualified via the playoffs after finishing behind Northern Ireland and Romania. A 3-1 aggregate win over Norway saw the Hungarians in the finals.
The biggest problem for Hungary is goal scoring. Daniel Bode and Krisztian Nemeth scored two goals each in qualifying, which led all of Hungary’s goal scorers. Meanwhile, seven different players scored one goal each.
Hungary's Danger man
Former Liverpool youth player Nemeth has had difficulty finding a home since leaving Merseyside in 2010. Hungary, Greece and the Netherlands have all been stops on his world tour of football clubs as he has be fruitless in finding a home.
In 2015, Nemeth found success in the USA playing for Major League Soccer side Sporting KC. However, after scoring ten goals in 28 games, Nemeth left Sporting for Qatar side Al-Gharafa. Nemeth is an exciting striker with plenty of skill. He could fire Hungary past one or two of the sides in the group.
Hungary maybe the weakest team in group E. Like Portugal, Hungary do not score many goals. If the Hungarians can get on a run and score, they will be dangerous. However, defensively they will be suspect against the better attacking sides in the group. It looks more likely that Hungary will finish bottom in their return to the Euros. Keep in mind, Hungary have the longest odds of any team in the 2016 Euros. Current odds to win tournament: 401.00