14.00 Belgium v Republic of Ireland (Group E)
This is a big one for the Belgians. Many people’s pre-tournament favourite, Belgium looked disjointed and distinctly lacking in threat during their 2-0 loss to Italy. Manager, Marc Wilmots, still seems unsure of his best team, or, he is sure but is miles off the mark.
The Republic of Ireland will be hoping it’s the latter and that they face the same wayward approach that characterized Belgium’s opening game. The boys in green will count themselves unlucky to not have held out for a win against Sweden but will have taken encouragement from their performance as well Belgium’s fractured form.
The big danger in this match is that Belgium and their superstars might suddenly turn it on. Equally, the Irish team beat Germany last October in a vital qualification game and will have no fear of Belgium. The market favours Belgium but Ireland are hard to beat and carry their own threat so give some thought to the draw. BetFred and most others have 14/5 for that outcome.
17.00 Iceland v Hungary (Group F)
Iceland were one of the great stories of the first round, courtesy of their courageous 1-1 draw against the might of Portugal. So brilliant, in fact, was their committed performance that Cristiano Ronaldo felt it necessary to comment about them in a lees than flattering manner, thus confirming to the world that for all his outrageous talents, he is quite a sad person.
The opening round of this group contained another surprise result but arguably one that shocked even more as Hungary earned a well-deserved 2-0 win over the much fancied Austria. Seemingly the Hungarians hadn’t read the script and showed little fear in the face of their vaunted opposition. Technically they are very good and will look to dominate their opposition.
Iceland were far better than Ronaldo gave them credit for, looking to use the ball when they had it to attack and create chances. They will do likewise here again but it might not be enough to get the better of a purposeful Hungary. Expect a tight match but expect that Hungary should win it. Once again this column finds itself at odds with the bookies who have Iceland installed as favourites. BetFair have Hungary to win at 21/10.
20.00 Portugal v Austria (Group F)
Here comes the battle of the wounded egos. Both these teams will have expected to win their opening games and yet they sit on one and nil points, respectively. Whereas Portugal largely dominated affairs in terms of attacks made, Austria, early shots aside, were made to look like the much weaker team in their loss to Hungary.
In round 1 previews, this column had claimed that Portugal were a serious side. That assertion was made look stupid by a mentally substandard performance which culminated in the calamitous defending which allowed Iceland back into the game. They didn’t give Iceland the respect that they deserved and should they repeat that trick, they may be going home earlier than expected.
Austria, similarly, appeared to think that the opening match was a lock in their favour. If that was the case, the karmic gods of football got them but good. Big things were expected of David Alaba and Marko Arnautovic but both were largely ineffective as Hungary dictated proceedings. It’s difficult to know whether this was a blip or indicative of a team who are too big for their boots.
In terms of the market, Portugal are heavy favourites with Austria variously quoted at prices of around 4/1. Whilst this is tempting given the players at Austria’s disposal, anyone who saw their opening games would still be hesitant to commit. The best price for a Portugal win is 5/6 from Ladbrokes amongst others.