Austria’s Pre-Tournament Buzz Was A Little Too Loud
For much of the last 18 months you have never been more than 10 yards away from someone who backed Austria to win Euro 2016. That’s a fact, just don’t ask me to check it though.
Most bets were made with back-to-lay in mind, of course, and the volume of those who made them only increased when the Austrians were placed in the fairly kind looking Group F. However, there wasn’t much about this performance in Bordeaux which suggested that glory – or least glorious failure – could be in the offing.
It could just be that they could have done with this tournament starting about a year ago, but now on the big stage the speed of their play which was so evident in qualifying had all but disappeared.
Everything would surely have changed had David Alaba’s early shot found the net instead of the post, but on an afternoon where a new European force was supposed to present itself, Austria fluffed their lines.
Hungary Rose Above The Ordinary
Unlike the vast majority of the teams in this tournament, Hungary turned out to be better than advertised here.
They were under the cosh for a large period of the first half, of course, but Bernd Storck has moulded a rugged, no-frills group of players into a team capable of style as well as substance.
The move for Adam Szalai’s goal was well put together, as were some of the pretty attacking triangles, achieved thanks to the contrast between the experience of Balasz Dzsudzsak, the vast experience of Zoltan Gera and the youthful energy of Laszlo Kleinheisler.
Forty Is The New Thirty
Good on you, Gabor Kiraly: still making saves and still rocking the trackie bottoms at the ripe old age of 40, and now the European Championships’ oldest ever player.
The former Crystal Palace goalkeeper might be something of a cult hero, and it was no surprise to see him trending on Twitter in the first half, but what he also is is a character and a leader for his teammates to get behind.
Not all sides in this tournament have that defining figure, and this was a more than impressive, if delayed debut at a major finals for the quadragenarian.
The Underdogs Continue To Bite
This expanded tournament has given plenty of countries opportunities that they daren’t have thought possible, and in the most part the smaller nations haven’t let themselves down.
Even in defeat, the likes of Romania, Albania and Northern Ireland impressed, whilst Hungary now join Wales in having a glorious chance at qualification for the knockout stages following a victory.
Italy would never like to be considered underdogs, but their win over Belgium also added to the feeling that so-called favourites aren’t having it all their own way, with the levelled out playing field producing a series of tight matches.
Good Things Come To Those Who Wait
That’s 551 days ago, and Szalai is a striker.
You sure can choose your moments, Adam.