Euro Group F Preview: Portuguese Stroll? Or Austrian Ascendance?

The World Cup might still be two years away, but that doesn’t mean that the summer of 2016 is going to be anything other than magical. With the Copa America happening right now within the United States, there’s plenty of footy to satiate any fanatic. However, crossing the Atlantic ocean during June and July will see you crash headlong into the European Championships. A tournament comprised of the best footballing nations of Europe, and a tournament plunged deep into the mirth of quality seen from European soccer. A chance to shine in your continent and be remembered as legends of the game; it’s a crown for an area that proudly proclaims to be the birthplace of the world’s game. In 2016, one country will rise and be proclaimed as king…bring it on!

With the Copa America in full swing and the goals finally starting to flow, it’s tough to think that there will be another dose of elite soccer for us to enjoy. Yet, here we are, preparing to dive headlong into the European Championships. With that in mind, the Center Circle has decided to give you a group-by-group look at what we can expect, what to watch for, and who we see moving on from the group stage. It’s Europe, it’s for a major title, and it’s going to be amazing!

GROUP F

A group whose focus will be entirely on CR7, Group F is a bit of a hidden entity. Not a lot of casual fans will be aware of what Austria and Hungary can bring to the table, but this will be an intense battle for qualification beyond the group stage. Add in Iceland not being a pushover and Portugal constantly faltering at the pivotal stage…this group is anybody’s guess…

Austria is one or two injuries away from struggling to string success together, but, if they stay healthy, their starting eleven can make a very impressive challenge. While they won’t have the attacking flair of Portugal, this team has a much stronger backbone than the other teams in this group. The interesting thing about Austria is that their national teams enact the same tactics and formation from the bottom of the youth levels all the way to the senior stage. Austria will be a handful at this tournament, but they’re building for an impressive future.

While David Alaba will be the name most fans focus on (and, despite a recent terrible moment in a friendly, they should), there’s plenty of talent. Look for Marko Arnautovic to raise his transfer stock (although, Stoke isn’t a bad place to be right now…), people to learn who Alessandro Schopf is, and see why this squad is a team to fear. As we mentioned, early injuries could cripple a deep run, but this might be Austria’s chance.

PREDICTION: First in the group.

WHY: Mostly, their talent, but probably because Portugal will inevitably falter.

Getty Images

Speaking of Portugal, Ronaldo’s international chances are starting to wane. When idiotic arguments arise about player legacies, international accolades always become a hot topic of contention. If CR7 is going to bring home silverware, it needs to be soon. Luckily for him, Portugal is built to be more successful than we’ve seen in the past. A strong group of younger players are starting to shine and it looks like the team won’t be in total disarray once Ronaldo floats off to that field in the sky. Much like Austria, injuries could always strike a team built like Portugal harder than most, but a deep run isn’t out of the realm of reason.

The reason why we aren’t totally sold is that their best midfielder (Moutinho) has had injuries all spring, their best defenders are prone to absolutely boneheaded decisions (Pepe/Bruno Alves), and the goals always seem to dry up when they need them most (Nani/CR7). The reason we ARE sold is that it only takes a slight bit of momentum to have serious success in a tournament, and the squad’s first fixture is against Iceland. Whether they succeed or not, look for a “handing of the torch” in almost every section of the field before the tournament ends.

PREDICTION: Second (or last)

WHY: Because they’re Portugal…and this is what they do…

Hungary will be hoping that the two front-runners falter a bit and allow them to either sneak in through the top two or qualify above other third place teams. They aren’t great at scoring from open play, but if they can keep games close and steal a goal from a set-piece (they scored over half their goals in qualifying from set-pieces), they might sneak into the knockout rounds. For Iceland, there really is nothing to lose as nobody is expecting them to escape this group. That could result in them playing freely and stealing some points, but the squad has no depth outside of their midfield and the striker they depended on in most of their qualifying had a horrible season of injuries.

PREDICTION: Hungary 3rd and Iceland 4th

WHY: Iceland isn’t ready for this level, and Hungary can’t score from open play.

There you have our Center Circle guide to group F. We hope that something in here helps you sound a bit more intelligent than your mates, but, a bit more selfishly, we just hope we get our predictions right. Keep an eye out for the other group predictions and enjoy the Euros!

Euro 2016 Group Previews:

Group A

Group B

Group C

Group D

Group E

Group F

 

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About the author: Andrew McCole

 

If I may be so bold to condense my immense personality into two words, it would be: soccer nerd. I love everything about the beautiful game and I tend to reflect that in my writing. I suffer through Liverpool fandom and hope that they will win another title before my wife spreads my ashes at Anfield (considering I'm in my twenties, it seems somewhat likely). Although I also dabble in tennis, teaching, and coaching, most of my free-time is spent writing articles for The Center Circle! Feel free to stalk me on Google+

 

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