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Euro 2016 Preview: Group F – The Group of Prop-Based National Stereotyping

In our final Euro 2016 preview, we profile Portugal, Austria, Iceland and Hungary. Spoiler: one of their managers likes to dress up like a stereotypical French person.

by UK Sports Staff
Jun 9 2016, 1:54pm

Don't ask // Via YouTube

In our final Euro 2016 preview, we explore the possibilities and permutations that Group F has to offer. With Portugal, Austria, Iceland and Hungary all involved, it's that group which you probably got tickets for before very quickly exchanging and/or selling those tickets. Still, stick around.

PORTUGAL

How Did They Do It? By finishing comfortably top of Qualifying Group I, seven points clear of second-placed Albania. Only lost one game over the course of their qualifying campaign, winning all the rest. Interestingly, none of their victories came by more than a one-goal margin.

Household Names: Plenty. You'll no doubt be familiar with the likes of Nani, Joao Moutinho, and angry foul machine Pepe. Ricardo Carvalho is somehow still going strong at 38, José Fonte has made the cut, and 18-year-old Renato Sanches gets a first tournament call up ahead of his move to Bayern Munich. Anyone else? Anyone we're missing?

EPA Images/Tiago Petinga

Ah yeah, him too. He might feature.

The Man in Charge: Fernando Santos, a man who looks like a retired army colonel with a penchant for cigars, strong coffee and the occasional political coup. Led Greece to the knockout stages of the last World Cup, and – fun fact! – has a degree in electrical and telecommunications engineering.

Prospects: Portugal have been given a favourable group but, second-best player in the world aside, this is not a great team. It's an ageing squad – Ronaldo is only the eighth eldest of Portugal's 23, but would be the oldest man in the England team – and a few of them are now past their best. Sanches is highly rated, but the 13-year age gap between him and Ronaldo means they'll never play together at both of their peaks.

Fernando Santos, looking unamused // EPA Images/Facundo Arrizabalaga

AUSTRIA

How Did They Do It? Austria basically aced qualifying – winning all but one of their 10 games and drawing the other – and secured their spot early on September 8 (more than two months before their final group game). This will be their first major tournament since joint-hosting the same competition in 2008, and is only their second ever appearance at the Euros.

Household Names: Midfield star (and occasional full-back) David Alaba plays his club football with Bayern Munich, and is the most globally recognised member of the squad. English fans will also be familiar with captain Christian Fuchs (Leicester), Sebastian Prödl (Watford), and Marko Arnautović (Stoke). The bulk of the team plays its club football in the Bundesliga.

David Alaba, doing some sweet keepy-uppies! // EPA Images/Christian Bruna

The Man in Charge: Marcel Koller, who has club experience in the Bundesliga, has been in charge of his national side since 2011. The 55-year-old celebrated qualification for the tournament by wearing a beret and eating baguette during press conference, which suggests either a quirky sense of humour or a penchant for prop-based national stereotyping. We'd like to pretend its the former.

Prospects: The draw has been kind to Austria. They've got a fairly average top seed in Portugal, who have too often relied on their mahogany-hued superstar, the man otherwise known as CR7. Iceland and Hungary are a long way from being big-hitters on the international stage, though their recent form suggests Austria shouldn't take them lightly. Nevertheless, they should be targeting second place in the group.

Marcel Koller, pictured without his trusty Frenchman costume // EPA Images/Gian Ehrenzeller

ICELAND

How Did They Do It? Plucky Little Iceland, as they will surely be known throughout the tournament, is a country of just 332,000 people, but they defied the odds to reach their first major tournament this summer. They did so by finishing second in their qualifying group, which is made all the more impressive by the fact that said group also contained the Dutch – perennial World Cup challengers, but more recently a shambles – who Iceland beat 2-0 at home and 1-0 away.

Household Names: Eidur Gudjohnsen is undoubtedly their best-known player; despite being 37 and some way past his best, the ex-Barcelona and Chelsea striker makes the squad. Gylfi Sigurdsson has played in the Premier League for several years, currently doing the business at Swansea City, while Aron Gunnarsson turns out for Welsh rivals Cardiff City. None of the squad play for European heavyweights, with the majority based in Sweden and Norway.

Gylfi Sigurdsson, cotching with the boys // EPA Images/Anotn Brink

The Man in Charge: Iceland have the distinction of being the only side at Euro 2016 with joint managers. In fact, we can't think of any team at a recent major tournament that was led by two different bosses (we look forward to being corrected on this). 67-year-old Swede Lars Lagerbäck brings the experience, having led his home country at three Euros and two World Cups (plus Nigeria at World Cup 2010). He's joined by Iceland's own Heimir Hallgrímsson, who will take sole charge of the side when Lagerbäck retires post-tournament.

Prospects: You'd never have expected them to get this far, so Iceland's next move is tough to predict. They clearly have a great team (as distinct from great players) in the manner of Leicester, though it's classic lazy journalism to compare the two. Iceland actually has a smaller population than Leicester, so anything beyond the quarter finals would be a minor miracle. That said, the Foxes have made us bloody hesitant about predicting anything ever again for fear of appearing stupid, so we'll just call them dark horses.

Lars Lagerläd, more like // EPA Images/Peter Schneider

HUNGARY

How Did They Do It? Once among the most feared sides in world football, Hungary have been missing from the major tournament scene since the 1986 World Cup, and haven't made the Euros since finishing fourth in 1972. They're back in 2016 having finished third in qualifying, beaten by Northern Ireland and Romania. They then beat Norway in the play-off. Excuse us for not ranking them too highly, but it's nice that they're back.

Remember Zoltan Gera, Fulham fans? Good times // EPA Images/Robert Ghement

Household Names: Hungary lack a recognisable superstar, with former Premier League players Zoltán Gera and Gabor Kiraly (he of the pyjama bottoms) probably the best-known. Those two are 37 and 40 years old respectively, have almost 200 caps between them, and now play in their domestic league. The Hungarians have a small Bundesliga contingent, with Adamm Szalai of relegated Hannover among them. Czech-born Tamas Priskin played in England for several years, notably for Watford and Ipswich, and now turns out for Slovan Bratislava.

The Man in Charge: You mean you haven't heard of Bernd Storck? But he played nearly 150 times for Borussia Dortmund during the eighties. He worked as a coach at BVB in the mid-2000s and later managed the Kazakh national side, before taking the Hungary job in 2015. Yeah, that's who's in charge: Bernd Storck.

Big Bernie Storck // EPA Images/Sebastien Nogier

Prospects: This group is arguably the weakest in the tournament, but we still don't fancy Hungary. Portugal should be fine, and both Austria and Iceland showed considerably more in qualifying. Qualification will likely rest on beating Iceland and trying not to lose against their former partners in central-European imperialism. Bloody Austria-Hungary, causing all that mess in 1914.

Read our other Euro 2016 previews here.