Surprise package Iceland will look to continue their fine form when they take on Austria in their final group F match at the Euro 2016. This encounter will be played at the Stade de France on Wednesday, June 22.
Iceland created sensation even before the tournament started by shocking the likes of Netherlands and Turkey while qualifying for the Euros. The tiny nation to ever compete in a European competition then went on to continue in the same fashion in its first couple of matches in France. No one gave Iceland a chance against superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. But the underdogs not just frustrated the Portuguese but also came back from a goal down to equalize and grab a well-deserved point. They continued in the same fashion against Hungary as well sitting deep and hurting them on the break. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s penalty gave them the lead but they sat too deep to provide Hungary with many chances who eventually equalized through an own goal.
That point doesn’t complete justify Iceland’s progress but they are second in the group on two points ahead of Portugal on goals scored. With the group so tight going into the final matchday, Iceland could find themselves anywhere from top to bottom. A win can take them to top while a loss will pull them to last position.
Austria have come to France as one of the teams to watch out for, following an impressive qualifying campaign where they dropped just two points. But their tournament soon fizzed into difficult terrain as an opening game 2-0 loss to Hungary put their hopes in jeopardy. They started brightly and could have gone into lead but for the woodwork and poor finishing. They had to avoid defeat against Portugal in their next match to stay in contention. They did just that by holding on to a point after a goalless draw. In a game that could have been won by Cristiano Ronaldo on many occasions, Austria had enough reasons to believe that they were destiny’s child on the night.
With just one point in the tournament, Austria sit bottom of the group standing and know that nothing less than a victory will keep their hopes alive. A win against Iceland can take them to as high as second – at least third and better chances of grabbing the knockout places on offer for third-placed teams.
Iceland come on the back of an impressive recent run with just one loss in the last five encounters. They like sitting back and soaking up the pressure, hoping for a quick threatening break. That worked well for them so far in the tournament and could do exactly the same against Austria.
Austria fell off the perch in the recent matches with one win and three losses in their last five matches. They struggled to breach the defenses of Hungary which played deep and that could prove to be their Achilles’ heel if Iceland replicate that tactic.
Key players and team news
Iceland will not have the services of Alfred Finnbogason who picked up yellow cards in both the games. They may not tinker with the system that proved their strength so far in the tournament. Sigurdsson will once again be under spot light for his dead-ball skills especially since the Austrians may give away some fouls in frustration.
Austria will welcome back defender Aleksandar Dragovic who was suspended for the previous encounter. Marc Janko was left out against Portugal but could return in a must-win game for them.
Iceland will hope that if they can avoid defeat for a fourth consecutive game, three points may just be enough to snatch a knockout berth. They pride on being a stubborn unit and could revel in stopping the Austrians than attacking themselves. But, they have scored in each of their recent ten encounters.
Austria are yet to open their scoring in the tournament and in a match that they badly have to win meet one of the frugal defenses. Recipe for frustration? Quite possible, as teams like Hungary, Malta and Albania have found out in the recent matches.
Austria have not lost to Iceland in three of their meetings against them. A win is what will keep them alive but it could be another frustrating night for Austria.
Iceland win or draw double chance at odds of 1.8 with Coral