Euro 2016 Group F: Inspiring Iceland fairytale can continue against Austria
Holly Thackeray | June 21, 2016
Iceland v Austria
- Euro 2016 Group F
- Wednesday, June 22nd
- Kick-off: 17:00 BST
- Stade de France, Saint-Denis, Paris
- Live on BBC Red Button
Pool F set for thrilling finale
European Championship debutants Iceland have stolen neutral hearts in France so far, having rallied to resist Portugal previously, and now prepare for their final Euro 2016 Group F game against Austria in an unusual predicament.
Currently occupying an automatic qualifying space on two points, the Nordic nation could conceivably still finish first with a goal swing needed should Hungary and Portugal draw their Wednesday evening encounter, or also easily find themselves eliminated with defeat if the other result does not go their way.
Yet, as Our Boys remain undefeated in their major maiden tournament, following a barnstorming qualifying campaign, they look nifty at 9/4 to snatch a third point against less than impressive Austria, with the rock bottom Alpine nation on the verge of being ousted themselves.
There have been two draws from three duels between these Pool F foes previously, but Iceland have never inflicted defeat on the Austrians, so odds of 14/5 for a first victory of the tournament look a little long as the islanders have struggled to find a cutting edge up top.
Das Team are similarly stunted in attack, having failed to find the target in their two games, so look no better for a triumph at 11/10, even with their backs against the wall.
Marcel Koller’s men cannot finish first but can catapult themselves back into contention for second after a slow start, but will need to show much more to convince they can break down Iceland’s determined defence.
Though, with neither team exactly playing with abandon, a draw and under 2.5 goals in the game also looks good to back at a 5/2 flutter, with that result much more appealing for Iceland fans than Austrians.
Iceland attack must make mark
There are no easy pool qualification paths for those from Group F anyway, so Iceland may not be too concerned with exactly where they end in the standings.
The group winner will likely face Belgium or even Italy, while the runner-up will be matched with England, as a best third place finish could earn a last 16 encounter with any of Spain, Croatia, Germany, Poland or Northern Ireland.
If dugout duo Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson are to guide their spirited side that far, however, improvements are needed in attack.
After just one goal in open play plus a penalty, Iceland pundits will be hoping to see more intent against the Austrians, with a clean sheet for Our Boys still most tempting at 12/5.
England will play 2nd place in Group F. But who? We've produced a handy chart to work it all out. pic.twitter.com/0Poj8J5GsS
— Coral (@Coral) June 21, 2016
Basel winger Bikir Bjarnarson is the only Iceland star to have converted in open play so far, and recently told press: “Of course we still believe… we have two points and one game left. So why not? Austria are a good team but we are a good team as well. We have to play better if we want to beat them and we will.
“We will be ready. We will play our game. Of course we will play football – we have to play more football and we know that. We didn’t do that enough against Hungary and it wasn’t good enough. We have to change that.”
Having been both the distributor and victims of a suckerpunch goal so far, Lagerback and Hallgrimsson will be looking to be on the front foot for once.
Bold Bjarnarson is 5/1 to bag again anytime, while penalty hero Gylfi Sigurdsson of Swansea City fame is 8/1 to open the scoring, with former Chelsea star Eidur Gudjohnsen 11/1 to grab the final goal after coming close against the Hungarians.
Austria down but not yet out
Holding out for a point would be far too risky for Austria and perhaps not even enough to secure third, so the big names really need to impress themselves upon this fixture and Iceland’s supposed lesser lights.
Lauded attacking pair Marc Janko, another Basel boy, and Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic have both flattered to deceive so far and are due more incisive performances. Punters can back them at 7/4 and 11/4 respectively to turn their quality up a notch and find the net anytime.
While, Red Bull Leipzig’s Marcel Sabitzer was last to tuck away against an Iceland team in Austria colours, in a draw back in 2014, and is 7/4 to get on the scoresheet again.
Bayern Munich man David Alaba is undoubtedly the star though and has held things together in France, making the adaptable midfielder a more intriguing 2/1 chance to dispatch for Das Team.
Coral’s top tip: A draw and under 2.5 goals in the game at 5/2 seems smart.