by LIAM RICHNER
To wrap up our group previews, here is a quick look at Group F, which includes dark horses Austria and newcomers Iceland.
Manager: Fernando Santos
A familiar face in Greece and Portugal, Santos brings a wealth of experience to what is a relatively young Portuguese squad. He won five major trophies as Porto’s head coach, but it’s his achievements with the Greek national side between 2010-2014 which rank his highest. He guided them to the last eight at Euro 2012 before taking the Greeks to the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time in their history two years ago. He was appointed Portugal coach during the nation’s qualifying campaign for Euro 2016.
Road to Euro 2016
Portugal were drawn in the five-nation qualifying group I and were favourites to qualify from the outset. However, a shock 1-0 defeat at home to Albania saw former manager Paulo Bento sacked. It was to be their only blip though, as the Euro 2004 hosts won all their other matches to qualify as group winners.
Making their debuts in 1984 in France, Portugal finished a respectable third place. Since Euro 96 they have been regular contenders at the Championships with their best finish coming in 2004, where they hosted the tournament, losing 1-0 to Greece in the final.
Cristiano Ronaldo is still on the top of his game and following on from his Champions League winning penalty against Atletico Madrid last month for Real, the winger will be oozing with confidence. His experience and explosive nature could set the Euros alight, providing he isn’t carrying the side through the tournament.
Manager: Lars Lagerback and Helmir Hallgrimsson
Here’s something you don’t see everyday. Iceland are managed by not one but two coaches. Together since 2013, this partnership almost saw Iceland qualify for Brazil two years ago, losing to Croatia in the play-offs. Lars Lagerback (Left) has previous experience at European Championships with Sweden, guiding them to four successive European Championship finals between 2000-2012.
Road to Euro 2016
Iceland defined the odds to qualify as runners-up of qualifying group A, which included Turkey, Czech Republic and the Netherlands. The Icelandic’s are the smallest nation to qualify for the finals, but will go into it without any pressure and confidence from their two victories over the Netherlands during their qualifying campaign.
This will be Iceland’s first appearance at the finals of a European Championship.
Swansea City’s Gylfi Sigurosson is the nation’s talisman and at 26 years of age, could be about to hit the peak of his career. He scored five goals during their successful qualifying campaign and will the one unlocking the opposition’s defences. His deadly free kick taking is well renowned by fans of both Swansea and Tottenham Hotspur.
Manager: Marcel Koller
Marcel Koller has been in charge of the Austrian national side for just under five years but he has nurtured the progression of the county’s development in football. Under his guidance the team is now one of the strongest in Europe and could provide one or two shocks this summer. He is yet to win any honours as a manager following domestic spells in Switzerland and Germany.
Road to Euro 2016
Austria won nine and drew once during their qualifying campaign which saw them top their group ahead of Russia and Sweden. They conceded just five goals and scored 22, showing that they have a disciplined defence and lethal attack.
Austria prior to 2016 had never qualified for the finals but did make an appearance in 2008 when they hosted the tournament. Their stay was short lived though as they were eliminated at the group stages.
Austria have some good talent on show this summer, but David Alaba has to be the pick of the bunch. The Bayern midfielder can bomb forward but can also defend. He works tirelessly for his country and the box to box midfielder could be key should Austria to well in France.
Manager: Bernd Storck
Bernd Storck will be an unknown manager to most, seeing as he is well renowned for managing at under 19 and under 21 level. His only previous experience of managing a national side was with Kazakstan between 2008-2010. Storck was made head coach of Hungary last summer and will be making his managerial debut at a major tournament.
Road to Euro 2016
Hungary finished third in qualifying group F behind Northern Ireland and Romania, meaning they would need to go through the Play-offs in order to reach France. They were drawn against Norway and won 3-1 on aggregate to seal their place at the finals this summer.
Hungary’s only two appearances in the European Championship finals came way back in 1964 and 1972 respectively. On both occasions they made it to the quarter finals. A feat that if replicated this summer will be a successful tournament for the country.
Hungary’s captain Balazs Dzsudzsak will be the man Hungarians will look at to inspire their side to glory. The winger, who currently plays his trade in Turkey with Bursaspor following spells at PSV, Anzhi Makhachkala and Dynamo Moscow, has 18 goals in 78 appearances for his country. He is pacey and a good deliverer of the ball at set plays.