EURO 2016

EURO 2016 Preview: Group F

EURO 2016By Sunday World
Ronaldo after scoring the winner in the Champions League final
Ronaldo after scoring the winner in the Champions League final

Austria and Portugal will likely be vying for top spot in Group F but a strong qualifying campaign could see Iceland upset the apple cart, while Hungary are the group's real wild card.

PORTUGAL

Tournament odds: 14/1

Coach: Fernando Santos

Star turn: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

There are no superlatives left to describe Portugal's all-time record goalscorer. At the age of 31, he is still the best player taking part in the Euro 2016 finals but can the brilliance of Ronaldo alone steer his nation towards glory on French soil? History suggests not.

Wild card: Nani (Fenerbahce)

The former Manchester United winger has lived in the shadow of Ronaldo throughout his career, so he will be keen to carve out his own legacy if he gets his chance to shine at Euro 2016. He has seen plenty of first-team action in Turkey this season and heads into the competition in decent form.

Young gun: Renato Sanches (B Munich)

Sanches in action for former club Benfica

Widely tipped to make a move to Man Utd, Sanches sealed a move to Bayern Munich instead and he gets his chance to cement his reputations as one of Europe's rising stars after making Portugal's Euro 2016 squad.

Weak spot: When you have a player of such sublime brilliance, it is natural to rely on him to win you matches, yet Portugal have long since been a team described as thus: Ronaldo plus 10 other bit-part players. It is a plot line that puts huge pressure on the Real Madrid superstar to win games on his own.

Finest hour: Portugal finished as runners-up in Euro 2004 on home soil, with party-poopers Greece ending their hopes of glory in front of their own supporters.

Verdict: Portugal have hit the jackpot with an opening group featuring Iceland, Austria and Hungary. They should make the quarter-finals and if Ronaldo is at his best, could be last-four contenders.

Squad:


ICELAND

Tournaments odds: 100/1

Coach: Lars Lagerback/Heimir Hallgrimsson

Hallgrimsson's was initially appointed as assistant to ex-Sweden boss Lagerback before being promoted to join as co-head coach, with the expectation that he will take over from his experienced mentor as Iceland boss when this double act comes to an end.

Star turn: Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea)

Sigurdsson raises his arms aloft after netting for Swansea

This former Reading and Tottenham midfield maestro has the quality to score the most sumptuous of free-kicks. He carries a big weight of expectation from Icelandic soccer fans at Euro 2016 this summer and is good enough to throw in a moment or two of brilliance.

Wild card: Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (Nantes)

Previously with Ajax, Sigthorsson boasts at impressive scoring rate at international level and he was Iceland's leading scorer in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. Could he be a shooting star to look out for in France?

Young gun: Arnor Traustason (Norrkoping)

This rising star made his breakthrough during their Euro 2016 qualifiers after he played a key role in his club side's successful push to win the Swedish title last year.

Weak spot: A lack of tournament experience may be covered up by the presence of experienced performers like Sigurdsson and former Chelsea star Eidur Gudjohnson, yet it is hard to know how Iceland will react when the pressure is applied.

Finest hour: We are about to witness it, as this will be Iceland's first appearance in a major international tournament.

Verdict: A group featuring a weak Hungary side gives Iceland a chance to pick up some points but they are unlikely to get much against Portugal and Austria. An early exit is likely.

Squad:


AUSTRIA

Tournament odds: 33/1

Coach: Marcel Koller

A coach who has made a big impact with the Austrian national side since his appointment in 2011, he promotes a high-tempo style that has produced results. Koller played for Switzerland in their Euro 96 campaign that was led by coach Roy Hodgson.

Star turn: David Alaba (Bayern Munich)

Alaba celebrates after making it 2-2 against Ireland in Dublin in 2013

This midfield maestro put a huge dent in the Republic of Ireland's hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup finals and he is the world-class gem in the Austrian set-up. Looks at home amid a clutch of top quality performers at Bayern.

Wild card: Marc Janko (FC Basel)

The lead striker in the Austrian side, this star turn of the qualifying push for Euro 2016 could be a real handful for relatively modest Group F opponents. His height and power are tough to contain when the delivery to him is accurate,

Young gun: Valentino Lazaro (Red Bull Salzburg)

A dynamic attacking talent who was the youngest player to appear in the Austrian league, he has a big future ahead of him and could be a useful weapon to have on the bench for coach Koller this summer.

Weak spot: This Austrian team is showing more promise than any they have produced in recent years, but they have yet to prove they can shine in a major tournament. Euro 2016 gives them a great chance to make a mark.

Finest hour: A third place finish at the 1954 World Cup finals is a dim and distant memory now.

Verdict: Look out for Austria to make it through the latter stages of Euro 2016. They are a good side to watch.

Squad:


HUNGARY

Tournaments odds: 400/1

Coach: Bernd Storck

After ending Hungary's 30-year wait to make an appearance in a major tournament, Storck was hailed as a hero for breaking the story of despair and he has duly been handed a new contract to confirm as much. He was a player with Borussia Dortmund and had a spell as coach of Kazakhstan.

Star turn: Tamas Priskin (Slovan Bratislava)

Tamas Priskin

A striker familiar to English soccer followers after spells with Watford and Ipswich, he scored a crucial goal for Hungary in their Euro 2016 play-off game against Norway last November.

Wild card: Gabor Kiraly (Szombathelyi Haladas)

Now aged 40, Hungary's most capped player had spells in English football with Crystal Palace, Burnley and Fulham. He is set to become the oldest player to play in a European Championships, beating a record currently held by Germany’s Lothar Matthaus.

Young gun: Laszlo Kleinheisler (Werder Bremen)

This 22-year-old midfielder caught the eye in the Euro 2016 play-off against Norway, with his brand of invention at the heart of the action offering Hungary’s a fresh dimension.

Weak spot: A lack of goals will undermine Hungary's attempts to make an impact at Euro 2016, with their 11 goals in 10 qualifying games against relatively weak opposition highlighting their lack of attacking firepower.

Finest hour: Runners-up in the 1938 and 1954 World Cup finals, they also finished third in the 1964 European Championships.

Verdict: Hungary lack the match winners to make a serious splash at Euro 2016 but they will fancy their chances of picking up a win against Iceland in Group F.

Squad: