Tuesday is Group F in this 2016 edition of the European Championships, and it throws up two immensely interesting ties. Undoubtedly, the star turn are Portugal – perennial European Championship Finals participants and home nation of arguably the world’s most famous current footballer, one Cristiano Ronaldo. But the remaining three teams in the Group have a rather less heralded recent football history. Hungary, the world’s greatest side in the 1950s, haven’t appeared at a European showpiece since 1972, Austria have only featured once before (as joint-hosts in 2008) and Iceland will be featuring at a major tournament for the very first time. So, at first glance, a very kind group for the Portuguese…
Team 👌🏼 pic.twitter.com/3GipMYSprh
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) June 7, 2016
It is true that Portugal and Iceland, who meet in the Group’s second match on Tuesday, at the Stade Geoffrey Gulchard in Saint-Etienne, have very differing European Championship pedigrees. Portugal, beaten finalists in 2004, enter the tournament as one of European football’s powerhouses, and with players of the profile of Ronaldo, Bayern Munich’s new €85m man Renato Sanches, and the experience of Ricardo Carvalho and Pepe at the back, possess the blend of experience and star quality necessary to travel deep into the competition. Coach Fernando Santos knows that Group F qualification is the very least of the required objectives for his side, especially after being pitted in a Group containing three relatively inexperienced international sides, especially as far as European Championship Finals tournaments are concerned. Yet if Portugal need any recent reminders of the damage so called minnows can do, they need look no further than the shock defeat they experienced at home at the hands of Albania in qualifying. Recent friendly results have been mixed too, while question marks remain over Ronaldo’s fitness, and with their defence featuring a collection of the oldest players in the tournament, the Portuguese are far from unbeatable, as Iceland will be keen to prove.
— UEFA EURO 2016 (@UEFAEURO) June 7, 2016
Yet debutants Iceland are determined not to be the whipping boys of Group F, and after securing two victories over the Netherlands in qualifying, they are certainly an outside bet to progress from this inexperienced Group. Not a natural footballing hotbed, the tiny northern Atlantic island now has an international football team to be reckoned with as Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson’s side have become the first Icelandic team to qualify for a major international tournament. The squad contains the likes of Swansea City’s Gylfi Sigurdsson and veteran striker Eidur Gudjohnsen, and are defensively strong as they showed in conceding only 6 goals in 10 matches in their qualifying campaign. The Scandinavian side do possess technically gifted players in the form of Sigurdsson and Alfred Finnbogason further up the pitch, and have enough to cause experienced teams, such as Portugal, a headache.
Commonly referred to as the Land of Fire and Ice, the Icelandic nation will be hoping their heroes set alight the tournament with a major upset, and don’t freeze come Tuesday night. However, the defensive nous of the Portuguese, coupled with the skills of their iconic number 7 should be enough to account for a narrow win, but the beauty of football often lies in the unexpected.
All odds courtesy of Bet365 and correct as of 09.00 GMT on Tuesday 14th June.