Austria is back at the Euros for the first time since 2008, after finishing in their qualification group ahead for Russia and Sweden, respectively. Janko led the Austrians with seven goals and he showed that the team can still lean on him. The Austrians also have a very good midfield that consists of Arnautovic and Alaba. Junuzovic also had a great season with Werder Bremen, so look for him to take the pressure off Arnautovic and Alaba from time to time. With only five goals conceded in qualifying, the Austrians are very organized at the back with EPL Champion, Fuchs leading the team, along with Dragovic who is being targeted by some big European clubs who can use his services. With the talent on this team, Austria should get through to the next round.
Hungary got to the Euros by finishing third in their group and then beating Norway 3-1 on aggregate in the playoff. This Hungarian side does not score much (only had 11 goals in qualifying), but at the same time they do not allow many either (conceded nine in qualifying). Every defender that has made the preliminary squad for Hungary plays in either the Polish or Hungarian league, which are not exactly powerhouse leagues when it comes to European football, so look for teams to try and expose the backline even though the team did not concede many goals. In the middle of the pitch, a lot of the plays run through Gera and Dzsudzsak, if they are not clicking then it could be lights out for Hungary in this tournament. Priskin is a solid player up front for Hungary and he will most likely be the man the midfielders will try and get the ball to. Nikolic could be an x-factor for Hungary at the Euros. He has not scored much for the national team, but his goal scoring record for clubs is really impressive. Look for him to play a key role off the bench, or possibly as a starter if Priskin is struggling.
Iceland had a great start to qualifying, they were the most surprising team for a while, but then managed to only pick up two points in their final three matches. Sigurdsson is the star player for the national team and he proved that in qualifying by scoring six times in 10 matches. Iceland is very defensively sound, having allowed only five goals, which is an impressive feat when you consider the quality of teams they had in qualifying. At the end of the day, everything will depend on Sigurdsson and if the backline can defend to its capabilities, if these two things do not happen, Iceland will not go through. At the age of 37 Gudjohnson is back with the national team. Do not expect him to play all 90 minutes of any match, but he could be a good wildcard in late matches if Iceland need a goal.
I think it is about time that Ronaldo gets some help from his fellow teammates. Ten years is a very long time to carry your team with no or minimal support. I vouched for Red Star striker, Vieira to get the call-up to these Euros, but that did not happen. Instead Portugal called up Eder, who scored six goals in minimal action for French side, Lille. This could be the last go around for Nani and Quaresma with the national team. No one is asking them to carry the team, but they need to help Ronaldo by using their speed to beat defenders and make good decisions in the final third of the pitch, if they can do this, this will open up the match for Portugal. William Carvalho will most likely be the starting defensive midfielder. He is yet another player that clubs from around Europe will be watching closely during these Euros. That being said, I really hope that youngster Renato Sanches gets some playing time. I have seen him only once, or twice, but I have been very impressed with what he brings to the table. He is not the tallest player, but he never gives up on plays, plays with a ton of heart and can really tackle for an 18 year old in the middle of the pitch. Pepe will need to keep his temper under control because he has been known to let down his team in the past. He has done a great job of that for Real Madrid this year.
-Austria and Portugal will battle for first in this group, while Hungary and Iceland should have their eyes set on finishing third.
-Iceland’s form towards the end of the qualifiers worries me a little bit. It is like they ran out of gas. They better be charged up if they want to progress here.
-Hungary’s trouble with scoring goals will continue, but that does not mean that they cannot advance, although I highly doubt that. That second round match vs Iceland will be crucial; both teams will probably need the maximum points from that match to have any chance at getting through.
Portugal and Austria
Ogi is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program. He is the founder of Blago Blogger Sports.