Portugal had an easy trip qualifying for Euro 2016, and now they now look to have an easy path to the tournament’s knockout stages.
Cristiano Ronaldo and company have what would be considered the weakest of the six groups in the recently expanded tournament, giving the side a chance to build momentum and show well at a major international tournament after disappointing in the last three.
Austria is the most likely to challenge Portugal atop the group, as the team will hope to ride successful seasons from a few key stars into the knockout rounds. Bayern Munich’s David Alaba, Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic and Leicester City’s Christian Fuchs could certainly make this team the competition’s dark horse.
Also ready to shock the continent is Iceland, a squad that qualified against all odds by finishing second place in a group that contained the Czech Republic, Turkey and the Netherlands. Hungary, though, could easily shock the world on the back of the set piece goals that got them to the finals.
Here is a closer look at all four teams in Group F:
Tuesday- Austria vs. Hungary (ESPN/ESPN Deportes/ESPN3), 12 p.m.
Tuesday- Portugal vs. Iceland (ESPN/ESPN Deportes/ESPN3), 3 p.m.
June 18- Iceland vs. Hungary (ESPN/ESPN Deportes/ESPN3), 12 p.m.
June 18- Portugal vs. Austria (ESPN/ESPN Deportes/ESPN3), 3 p.m.
June 22- Hungary vs. Portugal (ESPN/ESPN Deportes/ESPN3), 12 p.m.
June 22- Iceland vs. Austria (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes/ESPN3), 12 p.m.
PLAYERS TO WATCH– Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Arnor Traustason
NAME TO LEARN– Kolbeinn Sigthorsson. The Icelandic striker has averaged close to a goal every two games in his national team tenure. In a tournament where goal differential could mean the difference between qualifying for the knockout rounds or going home early, Sigthorsson’s goal tally could be vital for this team.
Goalkeepers: Hannes Halldorsson (Bodo/Glimt), Ingvar Jonsson (Sandefjord), Ogmundur Kristinsson (Hammarby)
Defenders: Elmar Bjarnason (AGF), Haukur Heldar Hauksson (AIK), Hjortur Hermannsson (Goteborg), Sverrir Ingason (Lokeren), Hordur Magnusson (Cesena), Birkir Saevarsson (Hammarby), Ragnar Sigurdsson (Krasnodar), Arl Skulason (OB), Arnor Ingvi Traustason (Norrkoping)
Midfielders: Karl Arnason (Malmo), Birkir Bjarnason (Basel), Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff), Emil Hallfredsson (Udinese), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea City), Runar Mar Sigurjonsson (Sundsvall)
Forwards: Jon Dabi Bodvarsson (Kaiserslautern), Alfred Finnbogason (Augsburg), Eldur Gudjohnsen (Molde), Johann Gudmundsson (Charlton), Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (Nantes)
OUTLOOK– Manager Lars Lagerback has a real chance to impact the outcome of this group with his surprisingly talented squad. Although clearly third-rate in a group with two of the world’s top ten squads, a staunch defensive structure and creative midfield play from stars Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aron Gunnarsson could lead to an upset.
PLAYERS TO WATCH– Cristiano Ronaldo, Eder, Joao Moutinho, Rui Patricio
NAMES TO LEARN– Renato Sanches and Raphael Guerreiro. Guerreiro will be thrown into the starting lineup in this tournament after featuring in recent friendlies due to Fabio Coentrao’s injury. Fans will likely hear the name of the attacking left back as he overlaps Ronaldo and puts in crosses this summer. Sanches is likely to come off the bench as an impact sub, with the 18-year-old able to provide a spark as a speedy, attacking midfielder.
Goalkeepers: Eduardo (Dinamo Zagreb), Anthony Lopez (Lyon), Rui Patricio (Sporting CP)
Defenders: Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Ricardo Carvalho (Monaco), Cedric (Southampton), Eliseu (Benfica), Jose Fonte (Southampton), Pepe (Real Madrid), Raphael Guerrerio (Lorient)
Midfielders: Adrien Silva (Sporting CP), Andre Gomes (Valencia), Danilo (Porto), Joao Mario (Sporting CP), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Rafa Silva (Braga), Renato Sanches (Benfica), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg), William Carvalho (Sporting CP)
Forwards: Eder (LOSC), Nani (Fenerbahce), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
OUTLOOK– Portugal’s team features a few stars at each position, but several mediocre players that never lived up to their hype. Fans of the country’s national team will hope Manager Fernando Santos can coach up those average players and make the cohesive unit perform better than the sum of its parts for a strong showing in what could be Cristiano Ronaldo’s last tournament in his prime.
PLAYERS TO WATCH– Marko Arnautovic, David Alaba, Christian Fuchs
NAME TO LEARN– Kevin Wimmer. While breaking into Tottenham’s starting backline has been a bit of a challenge with Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen at the helm, Wimmer has already shown that he has the versatility and skill to play centerback at the highest level.
Goalkeepers: Robert Almer (Austria Wien), Heinz Lindner (Frankfurt), Ramazan Ozcan (Ingoldstadt)
Defenders: Aleksander Dragovic (Dynamo Kyiv), Christian Fuchs (Leicester City), Martin Hinteregger (Monchengladbach), Florian Klein (Stuttgart), Sebastian Prodl (Watford), Markus Suttner (Ingolstadt), Kevin Wimmer (Tottenham)
Midfielders: David Alaba (Bayern), Julian Baumgartlinger (Mainz), Gyorgy Garics (Darmstadt), Martin Harnik (Stuttgart), Stefan Ilsanker (Leipzig), Jakob Jantscher (Luzern), Zlatko Junuzovic (Bremen), Marcel Sabitzer (Leipzig), Alessandro Schopf (Schalke)
Forwards: Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City), Lukas Hinterseer (Ingolstadt), Marc Janko (Basel), Rubin Okotie (1860 Munich)
OUTLOOK– This team is ranked tenth in the world, and is perhaps the most underrated side in that top ten. Their midfield is full of promising youngsters that will play without fear or the pressure of season veterans. Those young guns, paired with a spine of proven stars like Christian Fuchs, David Alaba and Marko Arnautovic, could be looking at a run to the semifinals.
PLAYERS TO WATCH– Krisztian Nemeth, Laszlo Kleinheisler
NAME TO LEARN– Adam Nagy. This 20-year-old midfielder is coming off of a title win in his first full season with Ferencvaros. Coach Bernd Storck has a proven track record of bringing through youngsters, and recently brought through Laszlo Kleinheisler.
Goalkeepers: Denes Dibusz (Ferencvaros), Peter Gulacsi (Leipzig), Gabor Kiraly (Haladas)
Defenders: Barnabas Bese (MTK), Attila Fiola (Puskas Akademia), Richard Guzmics (Wisla), Roland Juhasz (Videoton), Tamas Kadar (Lech), Mihaly Korhut (Debrecen), Adam Lang (Videoton), Adam Pinter (Ferencvaros)
Midfielders: Akos Elek (Diosgyor), Laszlo Kleinheisler (Bremen), Gergo Lovrencsics (Lech), Adam Nagy (Ferencvaros), Zoltan Stieber (Nurnberg)
Forwards: Daniel Bode (Ferencvaros), Balazs Dzsudzsak (Bursaspor), Zoltan Gera (Ferencvaros), Krisztian Nemeth (Al-Gharafa), Nemanja Nikolic (Legia), Tamas Priskin (Slovan Bratislava), Adam Szalal (Hannover)
OUTLOOK– As true fans of the beautiful game know, its not always easy to break down a defensive team that knows their strengths. Bernd Storck, and the rest of the group’s managers, will surely know how dangerous his Hungary team can be on set pieces. Grit, proper defending, and a spark of talent from the likes of youngster Kleinheisler or former MLS striker Krisztian Nemeth can give Hungarian fans a reason to believe.