EURO 2016, Group F: Portugal, a good blend of young and old

Portugal has a trump card in Cristiano Ronaldo. And he being over 30, this tournament could be the last chance for Ronaldo to stamp his authority before his superman-like prowess starts to wane.

Cristiano Ronaldo, the bulwark of Portugal.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Austria's David Alaba, Christian Fuchs and Martin Harnik in training. The team did well in the qualifying round.   -  REUTERS

Group F: Portugal, Austria, Hungary and Iceland

Portugal

It comes as no surprise that Cristiano Ronaldo stands out in this group. Despite being part of the Portugal set-up since 2004, it wasn’t until EURO 2012 that Ronaldo finally showed what he could do at a major tournament. The Portuguese superstar took his side to the semifinals, progressing from a very difficult group that included Germany, Netherlands and Denmark, before an agonising penalty shootout defeat to Spain ended the side’s campaign.

The Real Madrid star did not even take a spot-kick as his side had lost before he could take the fifth. Despite that, he did manage to finish as joint-top scorer. With World Cups not his stage, this EURO presents the Portuguese quite possibly his only chance of international silverware. And he being over 30, this tournament could be the last chance for Ronaldo to stamp his authority before his superman-like prowess starts to wane.

Portugal is one of the six top-seeded teams but is the least favourite among the bookies to lift the title. However, this team is a good blend of young and old, with players such as Renato Sanches an option from the bench. The weakness of the team is obviously its over-reliance on Ronaldo for goals.

With no proper target man up-front, Nani and Ronaldo will be expected to lead the line in a flexible 4-4-2 formation. Considering there aren’t traditional number 9s, that could pose a problem for the Portuguese once they face better opposition in the later rounds of the tournament. Key midfielder Joao Moutinho has struggled with injuries and that could also hamper the team’s ambitions of lifting the trophy.

Austria

The Euro 2008 co-host will be led by Christian Fuchs, who has just had the season of his life with Leicester City. This is his second appearance in a European championship after figuring against Germany in 2008.

The star man for the team, however, will be Bayern Munich’s David Alaba and he has able support in the more defence-minded Julian Baumgartlinger and the dynamic Zlatko Junuzovic. Coach Marcel Koller will line his team up in a 4-2-3-1 which could change to 4-3-3 if situations demand so.

The side had a fruitful qualifying campaign, finishing on top of its group with nine wins.

Basel forward Marc Janko will be the main man upfront and with the right service he could pose a credible threat to the European defences. Maverick Marko Arnautovic will be another key player for the side. The volatile Stoke attacker started all of Austria’s games in qualifying.

Austria will probably fight for second place and will have to contend with Iceland’s threat.

Iceland

This team too had an impressive qualifying campaign. It defied odds and finished second in a group that had the Czech Republic, Turkey and the Netherlands.

Its source of creativity will be in midfield, with Aron Gunnarsson and Gylfi Sigurdsson complementing each other exceptionally well, with the latter being allowed a fairly free role going forward. Coach Lars Lagerback has brought all his experience to Iceland and his 4-4-2 is an optimal mix of attack and defence.

The side’s goal-scorer, striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, has been plagued by injuries this season and that will be an area of concern; he averages almost a goal a game.

Hungary

Yet another side to use the 4-2-3-1 formation, it relies on set-pieces. Out of the 14 goals scored in qualifying, five came from corners, one direct from a free-kick and two after a free-kick was not cleared properly by the defence.

German coach Bernd Storck prefers the 4-2-3-1 formation and with no real pace in the side, Hungary will like to keep the ball in order to shield its defence. Balázs Dzsudzsák will be the key if Hungary has any hopes of making it to the next round, while Werder Bremen’s László Kleinheisler is known for creativity. The 22-year-old is nicknamed Scholes in tribute to his hair and former coach Benczés Miklós extended the comparison by saying: “This Scholes is also strong, full-blooded, attack-minded, good with the ball and without. Such a dynamic operator.”

The squads

AUSTRIA:

Goalkeepers: Robert Almer, Heinz Lindner and Ramazan Oezcan.

Defenders: Aleksandar Dragovic, Christian Fuchs, Gyorgy Garics, Martin Hinteregger, Florian Klein, Sebastian Prodl, Markus Suttner and Kevin Wimmer.

Midfielders: David Alaba, Marko Arnautovic, Julian Baumgartlinger, Martin Harnik, Stefan Ilsanker, Jakob Jantscher, Zlatko Junuzovic, Marcel Sabitzer and Alessandro Schoepf.

Forwards: Lukas Hinterseer, Rubin Okotie and Marc Janko.

HUNGARY:

Goalkeepers: Gabor Kiraly, Denes Dibusz and Peter Gulacsi.

Defenders: Attila Fiola, Barnabas Bese, Richard Guzmics, Roland Juhasz, Adam Lang, Tamas Kadar and Mihaly Korhut.

Midfielders: Adam Pinter, Gergo Lovrencsics, Akos Elek, Zoltan Gera, Adam Nagy, Laszlo Kleinheisler and Zoltan Stieber.

Forwards: Balazs Dzsudzsak, Adam Szalai, Krisztian Nemeth, Nemanja Nikolics, Tamas Priskin and Daniel Bode.

ICELAND:

Goalkeepers: Hannes Halldorsson, Ogmundur Kristinsson and Ingvar Jonsson.

Defenders: Ari Skulason, Hordur Magnusson, Hjortur Hermannsson, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Kari Arnason (Malmo), Sverrir Ingi Ingason, Birkir Saevarsson and Haukur Heidar Hauksson.

Midfielders: Emil Hallfredsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Theodor Elmar Bjarnason, Arnor Ingvi Traustason, Birkir Bjarnason, Johann Gudmundsson and Runar Mar Sigurjonsson.

Forwards: Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, Alfred Finnbogason, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Eidur Gudjohnsen.

PORTUGAL:

Goalkeepers: Eduardo, Anthony Lopes and Rui Patricio.

Defenders: Bruno Alves, Ricardo Carvalho, Eliseu, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro, Pepe, Cedric Soares and Vieirinha.

Midfielders: Adrien, William Carvalho, Danilo, Adrian Gomez, Joao Mario, Joao Moutinho, Renato Sanches and Rafa Silva.

Forwards: Eder, Nani, Ricardo Quaresma and Cristiano Ronaldo.

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