Verdict: Portugal win
Best odds: 4/9
Portugal are set to begin their title defending campaign in the European Championship on Tuesday afternoon, by taking on Hungary at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium in Budapest in the opening round of Group F.
The group as been widely seen as the ‘group of death’, with the other match set to take place in the evening of the same day involving the winners of the last two World Cups, France and Germany.
It was a highly unfortunate draw which saw the Hungarians pitted against three such great sides in the group stages, reducing their chances of progressing further to a bare sporting minimum. That, however, must now be enough for Marco Rossi and his men.
Hungary finished fourth in Group E of the qualifications for the tournament, behind Croatia, Wales and Slovakia. They went on to reach it through play-offs where they edged past Bulgaria and Iceland. Rossi’s side are currently unbeaten in their last 11 matches in all competitions, and their World Cup qualifications started well enough in March as they drew 3-3 with Poland, and smashed San Marino and Andorra 0-3 and 1-4, respectively. They played all three matches away from home.
Their pre-Euro friendlies saw them beat Cyprus 1-0 and play a goalless draw against Ireland.
Rossi will be without the services of Dominik Szoboszlai, whose superb performances for RB Salzburg in the first half of the season earned him a January transfer to sister-club Leipzig. Adductor problems have, however, kept the creative midfielder out of action ever since and he remains unavailable. Hungary’s midfield section will also be missing Zsolt Kalmar of Slovakian side DAC Dunajska Streda.
Willi Orban and Attila Szalai are likely to get the nod at the back, though it remains to be seen who the other player in the back three will be. Having recovered from a recent injury, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Roland Sallai is likely to start alongside captain Adam Szalai upfront.
One of the favourites for the European crown again, Portugal will find that getting out of this group could be a challenge that, if completed, could spur them on to greater success in the stages that follow. After all, they failed to win a single group game in 2016, but having gotten through, they ended up lifting the trophy after beating France in the final, courtesy of an extra-time winner from Eder. This time, however, not winning a single match in this stage certainly won’t be enough.
Fernando Santos’ team qualified for this year’s tournament by finishing second to Ukraine in Group B, just ahead of Serbia who gave them a bit of a shock later in the World Cup qualifications. Portugal were 2-0 up in Belgrade, courtesy of a brace from Liverpool’s Diogo Jota, but Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and Frankfurt’s Filip Kostic returned the favour and set the score level. That match came in between the 1-0 win over Azerbaijan and a 1-3 win away to Luxembourg.
Ahead of this tournament, Portugal played a friendly goalless draw against Spain, before thumping Israel by 4-0.
Jota and Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva are likely to flank Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in attack, with Manchester United playmaker Bruno Fernandes behind. Danilo and William Carvalho will probably be there to give the midfield some balance ahead of the back line, practically certain to include Manchester City centre-back Ruben Dias.
Dias’ teammate Joao Cancelo has, however, tested positive for Covid-19 and has been replaced in the squad by Diogo Dalot.
Portugal simply have to start the tournament strong, and with all due respect to Hungary, this is not a match where the defending champions can afford to drop any points.
Verdict: Portugal win
Best odds: 4/9
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!