UEFA Euro 2016 Preview – Group F

Group F

Teams (world ranking in brackets): Portugal (8), Iceland (34), Austria (10), Hungary (20)
Fixtures:
Austria vs Hungary, Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Portugal vs Iceland, Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne
Iceland vs Hungary, Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Portugal vs Austria, Parc des Princes, Paris
Iceland vs Austria, Stade de France, Saint-Denis
Hungary vs Portugal, Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon

Portugal

Head Coach: Fernando Santos
Captain: Cristiano Ronaldo
Previous Appearances: 6 (1984, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012)
Best Finish: Runners-up (2004)
Qualified: 1st Group I
UEFA Euro 2012: Semi-finals

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Rui Patricio (Sporting), 12. Anthony Lopes (Lyon), 22. Eduardo (Dinamo Zagreb).
Defenders:
2. Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), 3. Pepe (Real Madrid), 4. Jose Fonte (Southampton), 5. Raphael Guerreiro (Lorient), 6. Ricardo Carvalho (Monaco), 11. Vierinha (Wolfsburg), 19. Eliseu (Benfica), 21. Cedric (Southampton).
Midfielders:
8. Joao Moutinho (Monaco), 10. Joao Mario (Sporting), 13. Danilo Pereira (Porto), 14. William Carvalho (Sporting), 15. Andre Gomes (Valencia), 16. Renato Sanches (Benfica), 23. Adrien Silva (Sporting).
Forwards:
7. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), 9. Eder (Lille), 17. Nani (Fenerbahce), 18. Rafa Silva (Braga), 20. Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas).

Form Guide

Portugal had a shaky start to their qualifying campaign, losing their first game to Albania and requiring a 95th minute winner from Cristiano Ronaldo to defeat Denmark in their second. The rest of their campaign consisted of one narrow win after another, and while they won their final seven games to qualify comfortably in first they did not set the world alight.

Strengths

Ronaldo is arguably the best player in the world, and he will lead the Portuguese attack at the final tournament. He has plenty of experience, and his scoring record at both domestic and international level is nothing short of extraordinary. Pepe, Bruno Alves and Ricardo Carvalho provide invaluable experience down back, and Ronaldo will be ably supported up front by Eder, Nani and Ricardo Quaresma. Joao Moutinho provides plenty of experience in the centre of midfield, and he will be complemented by plenty of exciting young talent.

Weaknesses

There is a major lack of experience in the middle of the park, with Moutinho the only player in the centre of the park with more than 20 caps worth of experience. William Carvalho, Danilo Pereira, Andre Gomes and eighteen year-old Renato Sanches are all incredibly promising, but most of them are confined to the lower quality Portuguese league and do not have any real big game experience. There is a general dependence on Ronaldo for goals that could prove costly, and if he is shut down they will struggle at the finals.

Star Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo is arguably the greatest Portuguese player of all time, and while he still has plenty of time left in his career he already has three Champions League titles to his name, as well as having earned plenty of individual awards. He has scored more Champions League goals than any other player, and he will receive more attention than any other player at the finals.

Key Player: Joao Moutinho

Moutinho is the old hand in a very inexperienced midfield, and he will need to call upon his vast experience playing for Portugal, Sporting, Porto and Monaco. He will be relied upon to create plenty of chances for the forwards, and he will be needed to calm the nerves of a young midfield on the big stage. If he can’t there could be some serious issues.

Verdict

The Portuguese are a strong side, and Ronaldo is good enough to take them very far in this tournament. The dependence on Ronaldo is an issue, and there is a general lack of experience throughout the squad, but Portugal are a strong side and have the potential to do very well at this tournament.

Iceland

Head Coach: Lars Lagerback and Heimir Halgrimsson
Captain: Aron Gunnarsson
Previous Appearances: None
Best Finish: N/A
Qualified: 2nd Group A
UEFA Euro 2012: Did not qualify

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Hannes Halldorsson (Bodo/Glimt), 12. Ogmundur Kristinsson (Hammarby), 13. Ingvar Jonsson (Sandefjord).
Defenders: 2. Birkir Saevarsson (Hammarby), 3. Haukur Heidar Hauksson (AIK), 4. Hjortur Hermannsson (PSV Eindhoven), 5. Sverrir Ingason (Lokeren), 6. Ragnar Sigurdsson (Krasnodar), 14. Kari Arnason (Malmo), 19. Hordur Magnusson (Cesena), 23. Ari Skulason (OB).
Midfielders: 7. Johann Gudmundsson (Charlton Athletic), 8. Birkir Bjarnason (Basel), 10. Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea City), 16. Runar Mar Sigurjonsson (Sundsvall), 17. Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City), 18. Theodor Elmar Bjarnason (AGF), 20. Emil Hallfredsson (Udinese), 21. Arnor Ingvi Traustason (Norrkoping).
Forwards: 9. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (Nantes), 11. Alfred Finnbogason (Augsburg), 15. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (Kaiserslauten), 22. Eidur Gudjohnsen (Molde).

Form Guide

Iceland came into qualification as outsiders, but they started with a confident 3-0 victory against the Turks and never looked back. They comfortably defeated the Dutch 2-0, with Gylfi Sigurdsson scoring twice, and they had sealed qualification after eight games. Sigurdsson netted six times during the campaign, and as a team they only conceded six goals.

Strengths

The midfield combination of Sigudsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Johan Gudmundsson, Emil Hallfredsson and Birkir Bjarnason is strong, and it contains a great balance of attacking flair and defensive solidity. The defence itself was very frugal throughout qualifying, and with the experience of Kari Arnason, Ragnar Sigurdsson and Ari Skulason they should be able to get the job done. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson has played at a very high level, and he should form a great combination with Alfred Finnbogason up front.

Weaknesses

Iceland have never reached the group stages of a major tournament before, and the first match against Portugal could be a massive wake-up call. Most of the squad play in the relatively weak Scandinavian leagues, and while Gylfi Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson and Gudmundsson are all playing in England only one of them (Sigurdsson) is playing in the Premier League. Iceland have a strong side on paper, but many of their players have not played on this big a stage before, and this could have a huge impact on performances.

Star Player: Gylfi Sigurdsson

Sigurdsson has played in the Premier League and the Bundesliga, and he has played Europa League with Tottenham Hotspur. He is Iceland’s only true world-class player, and they will need him to step up if they are going to succeed. He is an attacking midfielder with plenty of goal-scoring ability, and after a great qualifying campaign he will look to star again.

Key Player: Aron Gunnarsson

Gunnarsson has plenty of international experience, with 57 caps, and his on-field leadership will be key. He has been a key player at Cardiff City for a long time, and will be needed as much for his calming influence in defence as for his contributions to attack. He is the key to Iceland’s midfield, and if he is unable to fire there will be issues.

Verdict

Iceland have a fairly strong side, but they lack a lot of big game experience. They played very well in qualifying, and they will try hard, but the pressure of a major tournament could get to them. With no real expectations Iceland have nothing to lose, and the presence of Gylfi Sigurdsson in attack could well be a game-changer. If they play like they did in qualifying, they will be very dangerous.

Austria

Head Coach: Marcel Koller
Captain: Christian Fuchs
Previous Appearances: 1 (2008)
Best Finish: Group Stage (2008)
Qualified: 1st Group G
UEFA Euro 2012: Did not qualify

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Robert Almer (Austria Wien), 12. Heinz Linder (Eintracht Frankfurt), 23. Ramazan Ozcan (Ingolstadt).
Defenders:
2. Gyorgy Garics (Darmstadt), 3. Aleksandar Dragovic (Dynamo Kyiv), 4. Martin Hinteregger (Borussia Monchengladbach), 5. Christian Fuchs (Leicester City), 13. Markus Suttner (Ingolstadt), 15. Sebastian Prodl (Watford), 16. Kevin Wimmer (Tottenham Hotspur), 17. Florian Klein (Stuttgart).
Midfielders:
6. Stefan Ilsanker (Leipzig), 8. David Alaba (Bayern Munchen), 10. Zlatko Junuzovic (Werder Bremen), 14. Julian Baumgartlinger (Mainz), 18. Alessandro Schopf (Schalke), 22. Jakob Jantscher (Luzern).
Forwards:
7. Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City), 9. Rubin Okotie (1860 Munchen), 11. Martin Harnik (Stuttgart), 19. Lukas Hinterseer (Ingolstadt), 20. Marcel Sabitzer (Leipzig), 21. Marc Janko (Basel).

Form Guide

Austria started their campaign with a 1-1 draw against Sweden, but they did not drop a point for the rest of the qualification process. They were not particularly dominant, but their defence was exceptionally solid and they continued to get the job done. Marcel Koller’s side fired on all cylinders in qualifying and they could have a huge impact at the finals.

Strengths

Austria were excellent in qualifying, scoring 22 goals and conceding just five. The defence of Aleksandar Dragovic, Christian Fuchs, Gyorgy Garics, Sebastian Prodl and Florian Klein is very strong, and will be backed up by a well-rounded side. David Alaba is a world-class player in midfield, and his combination with Zlatko Junuzovic, Marko Arnautovic, Martin Harnik and Julian Baumgartlinger in the middle will be very strong. Marc Janko had an excellent qualifying campaign up front, and the Austrians should not be short on goals.

Weaknesses

The Austrians did not concede many goals in qualification, but Robert Almer is not particularly experienced in goal and may struggle at the finals. Janko is a proven scorer up front, but Rubin Okotie and Lukas Hinterseer do not have much international experience, and neither has a strong scoring record at international level. This could prove a serious issue if one of them is needed to replace Janko late in a key match. Austria have come a long way since their fans petitioned UEFA to ban them from playing in their home tournament, but they could still be overwhelmed at the finals.

Star Player: David Alaba

Alaba is exceptionally versatile, and he has played centre back, left back and centre midfield for Bayern Munich. He netted four times in qualifying and his ability to hit the scoresheet will be valuable. He has plenty of experience in European competitions and he is Austria’s best player by a long way.

Key Player: Aleksandar Dragovic

Dragovic is still young, but he has plenty of experience at the top level and he will marshal the Austrian defence at the final tournament. He is reaching his prime, and Austria are relying on him playing well at the finals. If he is unable to fire then too much will slip through, and Austria will have no chance of success at the final tournament.

Verdict

Austria have an excellent side, and their performances in qualifying see them entering the tournament as one of the form teams. The midfield is filled with top class players and the defence is frugal, and while there is a general lack of depth up front Janko can provide the goals needed. Austria are a very strong side, and will be a very dangerous opponent.

Hungary

Head Coach: Bernd Storck
Captain: Balazs Dzsudzsak
Previous Appearances: 2 (1964, 1972)
Best Finish: Third Place (1964)
Qualified: 3rd Group F (defeated Norway in play-offs)

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Gabor Kiraly (Haladas), 12. Denes Dibusz (Ferencvaros), 22. Peter Gulacsi (Leipzig).
Defenders:
2. Adam Lang (Videoton), 3. Mihaly Korhut (Debrecen), 4. Tamas Kadar (Lech Poznan), 5. Attila Fiola (Puskas Akademia), 16. Adam Pinter (Ferencvaros), 20. Richard Guzmics (Wisla Krakow), 21. Barnabas Bese (MTK), 23. Roland Juhasz (Videoton).
Midfielders:
6. Akos Elek (Diosgyor), 7. Balazs Dzsudzsak (Bursaspor), 8. Adam Nagy (Ferencvaros), 10. Zoltan Gera (Ferencvaros), 15. Laszlo Kleinheisler (Werder Bremen), 18. Zoltan Stieber (Nurnberg).
Forwards:
9. Adam Szalai (Hannover), 11. Krisztian Nemeth (Al-Gharafa), 13. Daniel Bode (Ferencvaros), 14. Gergo Lovrencsics (Lech Poznan), 17. Nemanja Nikolic (Legia Warsaw), 19. Tamas Priskin (Slovan Bratislava).

Form Guide

Hungary started their campaign poorly, losing to Northern Ireland and drawing with Romania, although they recovered fairly well. They came back with wins against the Faroe Islands and Finland, and if not for a last game loss against the Greeks they may have qualified automatically. As it stood, they were forced into the play-offs, where home and away victories against Norway were enough to progress.

Strengths

Hungary have plenty of experience, especially in the middle of the park. The experienced combination of Balazs Dzsudzsak and Zoltan Gera is a strong one, and they will be essential in ensuring that the rest of the team stays calm under the pressure of a major tournament. Tamas Priskin, Krisztian Nemeth and Adam Szalai are all excellent players in attack, and Szalai, who has plenty of Bundesliga experience, could provide a great showing at the finals. Hungary have plenty of options in the middle of the park, and could be tough to beat.

Weaknesses

Hungary’s defence is fairly inexperienced at the highest level, and the omission of Liverpool goalkeeper Adam Bogdan does not help. In the weakest group in qualifying their attack was unable to fire, and their final tally of 11 goals in 10 games is assisted greatly by a 4-3 loss to Greece in the last match. Hungary have not reached a level this high since the days of the Mighty Magyars, and while the side does not have any real expectations they will feel the pressure of the big stage and are unlikely to push for the round of 16.

Star Player: Balazs Dzsudzsak

Dzsudzsak is the captain of the side, and with 77 caps to his name he has plenty of experience. He has played at the highest level in the Netherlands, Russia and Turkey, and he has racked up 57 European appearances throughout his career. He is a quality player on the wing, and if he fires he will be very dangerous for opposition defences.

Key Player: Zoltan Gera

Gera may be 37, but he has plenty of experience and this will be key to the side’s success at the final tournament. He has played in a Europa League final and he is very versatile, being able to switch between attack and defence easily enough. The solidity and calmness he provides in the middle will be essential if Hungary are to succeed at the final tournament.

Verdict

Hungary have some very strong players in attack and in midfield, but that attack did not function at all in qualifying and is not necessarily going to do so against better opponents at the final tournament. There are no expectations, but the side is just not good enough to match it and will struggle to progress.

Prediction

This group could well be the tightest of all, and while Hungary are simply not up to scratch the matches between Portugal, Iceland and Austria will be great to watch. The Austrians are probably the most well-rounded side in this group, and it would be no real surprise for them to take down Portugal to finish first. Iceland could be strong, but a lack of experience could prove costly.
1. Austria, 2. Portugal, 3. Iceland, 4. Hungary.

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