UEFA EURO 2016 Preview – Group F: Arguably the weakest group in the tournament, mainly because absolutely nobody fancies PORTUGAL to do anything in France, I think it could serve up some very open and exciting games. Cristiano Ronaldo leads an ageing forward line that includes ex-Manchester United dud Nani and any experimental hairdresser’s best friend Ricardo Quaresma. On their day they could be fantastic but those days are few and far between in recent history. Stuttering out of a weak qualifying group where they lost at home to Albania, a favourable draw will see them top the group but crash out in the knockout stages. A Selecção might lose out on top spot to an emerging AUSTRIA who, under former Grasshopper Club Zürich – Offiziell legend Marcel Koller, were electrifying in qualifying for the tournament. Winning all but one of their 10 games, Unsere Burschen also won all their away games including a hard-fought 1-0 win in Russia and a 4-1 dismantling of Sweden. Their strength is uncharacteristic of Austrian football – they have goals everywhere you look. Out and out striker Marc Janko has 26 goals in 54 games for his country and follows in the style of Austrian great Toni Polster. With impact players like Marko Arnautović, Zlatko Junuzović, and Martin Harnik also, Austria are a handful going forward. A confidence-boosting win over rivals HUNGARY in their opening game will do much to set their tone to go deep into the knockout rounds. The Magical Magyars are somewhat of an unknown quantity after their Under-21 coach Bernd Storck was promoted to the top job and oversaw two remarkable victories against Norway in the playoff games to qualify. Veteran Gera Zoltán is as important as ever to his country but all eyes will be on wonder kid Nagy Ádám. Entering their first-ever major tournament ICELAND will approach this group with optimism after two brilliant wins against the Netherlands (who didn’t beat them in qualifying!!). Capable of turning any game is the boot of Swansea star Gylfi Sigurdsson. Free-scoring forward Kolbeinn Sigþórsson will feel at home in France after moving to FC Nantes this season, and lookout for a dramatic cameo by Eidur Smari Gudjohnsen to sneak Strákarnir okkar through to the round of 16.
Take your pick who qualifies here! Which coach has the adventure to go for it and be rewarded? I fancy the Austrians to trump a lacklustre Portugal and be the surprise package of the Euros.
Fun link between all the teams: At 40 years old Hungarian goalkeeper Gábor Király is the oldest player in the tournament. The stopper became well known for wearing his signature grey pyjama-pants in games. He played most recently at TSV 1860 München with Austrian forward Rubin Rafael Okotie. 1860’s current coach is none other than Football Manager favourite Daniel Bierofka (who many times did you sign him?!) who had to receive special permission to coach as he didn’t hold the appropriate license. Much like Ole Gunnar Solskjær when he took charge at Cardiff City Football Club. Solskjaer currently coaches Molde Fotballklubb where Iceland legend Eidur Smari Gudjohnsen currently plays. Gudjohnsen has played for 16 clubs including AS MONACO where no fewer than 5 of the Portugal squad play including João Moutinho!