Finally, we come to Group F, which on paper looks like the easiest group. Portugal are the standout name, followed by three sides who rarely make it to this tournament. Iceland have qualified for the first time ever, Austria have only made one previous appearance as hosts, whilst Hungary have only competed in two European Championships before, the latest being in 1972. Is some long-awaited joy on the cards?
- Tuesday 14th June: Austria vs Hungary; Bordeaux; 5pm (ITV)
- Tuesday 14th June: Portugal vs Iceland; Saint-Etienne; 8pm (BBC)
- Saturday 18th June: Iceland vs Hungary; Marseille; 5pm (BBC)
- Saturday 18th June: Portugal vs Austria; Paris; 8pm (BBC)
- Wednesday 22nd June: Iceland vs Austria; Saint-Denis; 5pm (BBC)
- Wednesday 22nd June: Hungary vs Portugal; Lyon; 5pm (BBC)
- World Ranking: 8th
- European Championships best: Runners-up (2004)
- Previous European Championships played in: 6
- Manager: Fernando Santos
- Captain: Cristiano Ronaldo
How they qualified
After a shock 1-0 defeat to Albania in their first qualifying game in Group I, Paul Bento was sacked as manager of the national team. His replacement Fernando Santos guided Portugal to seven straight wins (they only played eight in total) meaning they topped the group with ease. Although not quite, as all seven wins were by a one goal margin, and they only scored a total of 11 goals in eight matches.
Star Man – Cristiano Ronaldo
Just when you thought Cristiano Ronaldo might begin to slip as enters his 30s, the Portuguese forwards just knocks it up a gear, continuing to amaze fans with his pace, power and skill. Gone are the days when he was accused of not doing it for his national team. He has smashed Portugal’s all-time goal-scoring record (he’s currently on 58 -five of which came in qualifying) and in France will overtake Luis Figo to become the most capped player in the country’s history. Ronaldo’s confidence is as high as ever, coming into the tournament after winning the Champions League with Real Madrid and getting 52 goals and 15 assists in 53 games in all competitions in 2015-16. He’s won everything there is to win on the club scene, can CR7 finally achieve glory on the international stage after coming so close at Euro 2004?
The impact Cristiano Ronaldo has on this Portugal team is evident. Without him against England they were poor, falling to a 1-0 defeat. With him six days later, they thrashed Estonia 7-0. The Real Madrid front man will be crucial and should help them get out of the group as winners. But facing the runner-up from the group of death in the knockout stage might signal a surprise early exit for Portugal. Round of 16
- World Ranking: 34th
- European Championships best: N/A (this is their first tournament)
- Previous European Championships played in: 0
- Managers: Lars Lagerback & Heimir Hallgrimsson
- Captain: Aron Gunnarsson
How they qualified
Iceland became the smallest country to ever qualify for the European Championships when they secured their place in France with two games to spare in Group A. Six wins from their first seven games (including doing the double over the Netherlands) meant that a 0-0 draw in matchday eight was enough to get over the line. They ended up finishing second behind the Czech Republic, but still only conceded six goals in the ten qualifying matches.
Star Man – Gylfi Sigurdsson
Bringing a touch of class to this largely unknown Iceland team is Gylfi Sigurdsson, who scored six goals in qualifying – more than anyone else in Group A. Moving from his homeland to Reading as a 16 year old must have been a daunting prospect, but (via a spell in Germany) the midfielder has worked his way up the English leagues and progressed into an incredibly talented player. For Swansea in 2015-16, Sigurdsson scored 11 goals and got three assists in the Premier League, before wiping the floor at the club’s end of season awards evening. Iceland play a largely defensive system, meaning the 26 year old plays a slightly deeper role, but remains key to their fluid attacking play with his perfectly placed passing. Watch out for him from free-kicks too.
Coming up against Cristiano Ronaldo means the Iceland defence will need to be tighter than usual, but I think they’ll be able to hold their own in all three group games yet not necessarily win. Saying that, they should get enough points to qualify as one of the best third place teams, but the draw means that they’ll probably come up against Germany or Spain, who will knock them out. Round of 16
- World Ranking: 10th
- European Championships best: Group stage (2008)
- Previous European Championships played in: 1
- Manager: Marcel Koller
- Captain: Christian Fuchs
How they qualified
For a country who had only previously qualified for the tournament as hosts in 2008, Austria reached France in emphatic style, with only England bettering their final points tally of 28. After drawing their first game in Group G to Sweden, Austria won their remaining nine fixtures to easily top the group eight points ahead of Russia.
Star Man – David Alaba
Whilst David Alaba is usually a left-back for Bayern Munich, the presence of Premier League winning Christian Fuchs who captains Austria means he features in midfield for the national team. But Alaba is equally comfortable there, proving solid to protect a back four, helping them stay tight in qualifying as they conceded just five goals and kept six clean sheets. Despite being just 23 years old, he has the look of a natural leader and inspires confidence in his team-mates. Alaba has won the Austrian footballer of the year award in each of the last five years, and has also been named the country’s sports personality of the year twice. To say that he’s versatile would be an understatement – he has played on the wing, in attacking midfield and sometimes even up front for Austria!
Austria are my dark horses for Euro 2016. They’ve got a tight defence, Alaba runs the show in midfield and there’s genuine attacking quality in the side with winger Marko Arnautovic and striker Marc Janko both enjoying good seasons. They could even beat Portugal to top spot, but I think second would suit them better, progressing to the last eight before they meet hosts France. Quarter-finals
- World Ranking: 20th
- European Championships best: Third Place (1964)
- Previous European Championships played in: 2
- Manager: Bernd Storck
- Captain: Balazs Dzsudzsak
How they qualified
Hungary stumbled through qualification, finishing third in F, handing a shambles of a Greece team their only win in qualifying. In the play-offs, Hungary were drawn against Norway. After winning the first leg away 1-0, they secured their place in France by winning 2-1 at home in the second leg – a 3-1 victory on aggregate.
Star Man – Balazs Dzsudzsak
In a team lacking any real quality, when Hungary need a moment of magic, they turn to their skipper on the left wing Balazs Dzsudzsak. This is now especially the case since veteran former Premier League midfielder Zoltan Gera has taken up a deeper role, making Dzsudzsak the main attacking impetus in the side. The 29 year old has been at the top of his game for nearly ten years, and is an underrated midfielder who few people have heard of, plying his trade at PSV, Anzhi, Dynamo Moscow and now Bursaspor. The incisive, technically able winger is improving with age and is a reliable source for goals, netting 18 in 78 Hungary caps. He has previously been linked with Liverpool and Inter Milan.
I can’t say I know much about Hungary, which is probably a bad thing. They’ve been handed a relatively kind draw compared to others who were in pot 4, but I still think they’ll struggle to make it to the knockout stage. Unlikely to be humiliated though, it will probably be a short stay in France for Bernd Stock’s men. Group stages