Austria midfielder Alessandro Schopf says nothing but a top-level display from his side will be enough to beat neighbours Hungary in their Euro 2016 opener.
Marcel Koller’s side, co-hosts of the 2008 tournament, progressed to the finals through a qualifying campaign for the first time in laudable fashion, winning nine and drawing one of their 10 matches.
With an 11-game unbeaten run in competitive fixtures and a squad boasting the talents of David Alaba, Marko Arnautovic and Aleksandar Dragovic, Austria are firm favourites to open their campaign in France with victory over a Hungary side who are appearing in their first major finals since 1986.
But with the Hungarians boasting the better head-to-head record – they have won 66 and lost 40 of 137 meetings – Schalke midfielder Schopf expects a stern test in Bordeaux.
“It will certainly be a difficult game for us,” the 22-year-old, who only made his senior debut in March, told the Austrian Football Association website.
“They’re a compact opponent, defensively very well organised. In attack, they always create chances. We have to give 120 per cent or we won’t win this game.
“There’s currently a huge euphoria in Austria. We want to give something back.”
Hungary qualified for their first European Championship finals since 1972 by beating Norway 3-1 in the play-off round, after they finished third in Group F behind Romania and Northern Ireland.
Their chances of progressing from a group which also contains Portugal and Iceland appear slim, but a result against much-fancied Austria would give them a fighting chance of progressing to the knockout rounds.
For Richard Guzmics, hopes of beating their neighbours will depend on how well they nullify the influence of centre-back Dragovic and strike duo Arnautovic and Mark Janko.
“Dragovic and Janko effectively determine how the Austria team plays. But they’ve got Arnautovic, as well,” he said this week.
“They’re very strong on the wings and we have to make sure we’re prepared for this. We’ve shown that we’re organised. The team defends and attacks together.”
Regardless of the result, Hungary can make history on Tuesday: at 40 years and 75 days, goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly will become the oldest player to play at the tournament, beating the record of 39 years and 91 days held by Lotthar Matthaus.
Key Opta Stats:
– Hungary are unbeaten in their last three games against Austria (W2 D1). Their only previous encounter in a major tournament was in the 1934 World Cup: Austria won 2-1 in the quarter finals.
– Austria have been knocked out in the group stages in each of their last three major tournaments (World Cup 1990, World Cup 1998, Euro 2008).
– Austria only converted one of their 46 shots at EURO 2008, their only previous appearance in the finals.
– Hungary’s only win to date at the European Championship came in June 1964 against Denmark (3-1 in the third place final). They have lost the other three games.
– Marcel Koller is participating in his first major tournament as coach. He played two games for Switzerland at Euro 1996 (draw against England followed by a defeat against Scotland).
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