Portugal to march forward


Portugal v Iceland - EURO 2016 - Group F - Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-

Anyone would close their eyes and just pick Portugal to win this group. It looks easy for them but they face sides that are capable of being defensively solid on their day.

In 2004, they were shocked by Greece and could expect the same treatment if they are not enterprising enough to carve open stout defences.

The second spot though will be a tight contest though Austria would be favoured to finish second as they have players who are capable of beating anyone on their day.

 

Here is what to expect from Group F

 

Austria

ONCE upon a time, teams would love to meet Austria as they are assured of three points or a win. This time though, teams will find it tough to beat this side as many of the youngsters have grown to become world class players.

Marcel Koller doesn’t need to worry about game changing players as he has few of them in the squad.

In defence, he has Christian Fuchs, who won the Premier League with Leicester City, Kevin Wimmer, Sebastien Prodl and the elegant yet strong Aleksandar Dragovic. Fuchs will be particularly important as his crosses will be dangerous for any opposing teams.

In midfield, you have David Alaba who looks set to partner Fuchs on the left, Julian Baumgartlinger, who shone for Mainz O5 last season, and Zlatko Junuzovic in the middle and Marko Arnautovic on the right.

Martin Harnik will play behind Marc Janko, who will be target man for Austria. Lanky and tall, Janko will be hoping to see crosses from Alaba, Arnautovic and Fuchs as he is a brilliant header of the ball.

Those days, they were known for their boring brand of football but now you can expect more enterprising football from this side. The attackers will be a joy to watch and they actually stand a chance of qualifying for the next round.

 

Hungary

No star players but their strength lie in the squad’s unity and spirit. Coach Bernd Storck favours a 4-2-3-1 formation and since the qualifying, he already has players moulded for that formation.

In the past, the Mighty Magyars led by the late Ferenc Puskas used to light up world football but after 1986, the team struggled in the international stage.

After 44 years, the Hungarians are back in the Euro and Storck has been labelled as a legend by many Hungarian fans.

Gabor Kiraly, who at 40 is set to be the oldest player to play in the Euro and he will be protected by Tamás Kádár, Ádám Lang, Richárd Guzmics and Attila Fiola.

The two holding midfielders would be Adam Negy and Akos Elek while the three attacking midfielders would be Balasz Dzsudzsák, László Kleinheisler and Zoltan Gera. The final piece to the jigsaw puzzle would be Ádám Szalai.

In looks like an average side but their understanding is pretty good because they have played together since the qualifying. Storck will surely rely on counter-attacks against the sides in this group.

It would be tough for this team to go to the next round. They might not even be the third best team in the tournament.

 

Iceland

A small nation with big hopes – This will be their first ever international tournament and what a run they had during the qualifiers.

They are the smallest country by population to ever qualify for the finals of the European Championship and they stormed to the tournament by finishing second behind Czech Republic.

Defence and a superb team spirit are two things that have been a hallmark of Iceland’s qualifying campaign as they only conceded six goals, keeping six clean sheets in the process.

Just like any Scandinavian side, Iceland plays a 4-4-2 system. Led by charismatic Lars Lagerbäck and young Heimir Hallgrímsson, I expect them to play defensive and rely on set-pieces and counter-attacks for goals.

Ogmundur Kristinsson will start in goal and his back four would be Ari Skúlason, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Birkir Sævarsson and Elmar Bjarnason.

In the middle, Kari Árnason and Aran Gunnarsson will spray the passes and also shield the backline while Johann Gudmundsson and Gylfi Sigurdsson are set to dazzle on the wings. Sigurdsson is undoubtedly the star in this side and he will be the main player for Iceland.

In attack, Kolbeinn Sigthórsson and Alfred Finnbogason will be the front two tasked to finish off crosses or passes from the midfield. In 2004, Greece shocked the world by winning the Euro and some are saying that Iceland is capable of doing so.

It’s too much to ask from a team that is pretty new on the international stage. They will impress but they won’t go out of the group.

 

Portugal

Many deem Ireland as an ageing squad but Portugal has got players who are on the wrong side of 30. Except for Cristiano Ronaldo, 31, the rest were mediocre with their clubs.

Bringing such form would be detrimental but when you have Fernando Santos as coach, you will be demanded to give your 101% for the country. Rui Patricio will be wearing the gloves for Portugal and he will be protected by veterans Pepe and Bruno Alves.

With a combined age of 68, both are experienced but teams with pace will surely trouble these two. Both are also prone to committing dangerous fouls and Santos will surely remind the two to keep their temperament in check. Cedric and Eliseu will be the wing-backs assisting wingers Nani and Danilo. If these four combine well, Ronaldo will be assured of constant service from these four.

The middle three will be Joao Moutinho, Adrien Silva and Joao Mario but some say William Carvalho or Andre Gomes might actually replace Silva and Mario. Depth is there and this is something Portugal lacked in the last few years.

If these eleven don’t work, Santos has Ricardo Quaresma, Vieirinha or Renato Sanches to make an impact as substitutes. Depth is important and this will be an asset for Portugal.

The nation certainly has high hopes for this side and many are predicting this side to finish top and go all the way in the tournament. They will be facing organised sides, just like Greece in 2004 but this time around, they are capable of breaking down any defensive sides. This is the time for them to win the tournament.

 

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