17.00 Austria v Hungary (Group F)
One hundred years ago this match could not have happened as, at that time, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was still very much intact. So we need to ‘thank’ the first world war for seeing to the dissolution of the once powerful political bloc, hence allowing Austria and Hungary to operate as two separate entities and face off against each other in this tournament, 88 years after the empire collapsed.
All that being said, it looks like Austria will emerge victorious from this battle of a former union. They have been variously described as this summer’s dark horses, or, more annoyingly, the hipster’s choice. In more mundane terms, it literally means that they have a team that is better than most with a system that’s effective and well-understood by the players. They also have one of Europe’s most talented players in Bayern Munich’s David Alaba although his role in the national team is in midfield rather than defense.
Hungary finished third in their qualifying group, the same group that Northern Ireland came first in. An early loss to that team saw a change in management and what turned out to be a successful charge up the table. Zoltan Gera apart, the Hungarians don’t have many standout names in their squad but are an organized and disciplined team and by all accounts are set piece specialists. Shades of Greece in Euro 2004, perhaps?
One assumes that Austria will expect to win this game but Hungary won’t be singing from the same hymn sheet. A price of 3/4 seems to be the best for an Austrian win but 11/4 from 888Sport for a draw is worth some thought.
20.00 Portugal v Iceland (Group F)
When people speak about Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to be the only player from the squad that people will focus on. However, as prominent and enveloping as his presence is, this is far from a one man team as cursory glance at their squad will tell you. They have a seasoned and, eh, physical set of defenders (we’re looking at you, Messrs.’ Pepe and Alves), serious power and skill in midfield with the likes of Moutinho, Carvalho & Sanches and Ronaldo up top where he is assisted by one of Nani, Quaresma and Eder. Portugal are a serious team.
According to some rudimentary maths, the population of Iceland could fit into the Greater London area 25 times over, which is to say that theirs is a small country. The same could seemingly be said of their goal mouth during the qualifying campaign as they managed to keep six clean sheets throughout. Swnasea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson is perhaps their best known, most talented player and much of their attacking play will go through him. They will form a compact unit in defense but will not look to be overly conservative with this approach either and do carry offensive threat.
Iceland, much like Northern Ireland, have been one of the feel good stories coming into this tournament but one suspects that they have a chance of going further in this competition than their southern counterparts. One rather suspects that any points they do pick up will come in games 2 & 3, however, as Portugal are the better team and have the players to do some serious damage. Portugal to win at 7/12 from MarathonBet is currently the best price going.