Euro 2016: Portugal v Iceland - Expert v Expert Preview


Portugal and Iceland are the last two teams to take the stage at Euro 2016, with the pair coming up against each other in Saint-Etienne on Tuesday evening.

The pre-match buildup has largely centred on the contrast between Cristiano Ronaldo and a tiny nation in their first ever major tournament, but what can we expect to see?

Team experts Tom Kundert and Alexander Freyr Einarsson gives us the lowdown.

 

TEAM NEWS

Tom Kundert on Portugal: Ricardo Quaresma’s sparkling form in the friendly matches may have done enough to dislodge Nani, the only outfield player who played in every qualifying match, from the starting XI alongside Ronaldo up top. There was a scare in training yesterday as Quaresma sat it out after a muscle twinge, but it appears to have been a precaution only.

Raphael Guerreiro put forward a convincing case to take over from Eliseu at left-back in the warmup games.

Although definite starters, all eyes will be on captain Ronaldo and midfielder João Moutinho, both of whom looked short of full fitness in the pre-tournament friendly matches.

FBL-EURO-2016-ISL-TRAINING : News Photo

Alexander Freyr Einarsson on Iceland: Everyone seems to be fit before Iceland‘s first game in a major tournament in the country‘s history. Prolific striker Kolbeinn Sigþórsson was a serious doubt before the tournament but got some important minutes against Liechtenstein.

Basel winger Birkir Bjarnason and defender Kári Árnason were given a rest against Liechtenstein but are good to go and can both be expected to start. Nine out of eleven places in the starting line-up should be sealed, but there still remain two to fight for.

 

FORM

Kundert: Portugal’s three pre-tournament friendlies brought encouraging signs for the most part, with two wins, at home against Norway and Estonia, and a narrow defeat to England at Wembley in a match where the team were down to 10 men for an hour. The seven straight wins with which Portugal ended qualification, not to mention last week’s 7-0 destruction of Estonia have raised expectations.

In Portugal’s six previous appearances at European Championships they have only won their opening match twice, at Euro 2000 and Euro 2008. Seleção fans will be hoping the eight-year sequence remains intact in St. Etienne on Tuesday.

Einarsson: Iceland‘s form since clinching their Euro qualification has been nothing short of anti-climatic, with the team only emerging victorious from three of their last eleven games. Additionally, those wins came against relatively easy opponents in Finland, Greece and Liechtenstein whereas the team has suffered losses against stronger teams such as Poland and Denmark.

The 4-0 victory against Liechtenstein could serve as a confidence boost right before the big stage, but Iceland will have to retrieve the fierceness and fighting spirit they had in the qualifiers if they are to stand a chance against Portugal.

 

KEY MAN

Kundert: With Portugal theoretically the strongest team in the group, Iceland will be satisfied with a point from their first ever tournament game, and will surely set up defensively. It may require a moment of magic to break through, and Quaresma has been providing those in abundance lately, scoring two and providing three assists against Estonia last week.

Unstoppable on his day, Quaresma appears primed to finally make his mark on the big stage.

Euro 2016 - Iceland Press Conference : News Photo

Einarsson: Swansea‘s Gylfi Sigurðsson is Iceland‘s key player and he comes into this tournament on fire. ‘The Sig’ played a major part in keeping Swansea in the Premier League, scoring 11 goals. Nine of these goals came in 2016, with Gylfi being one of the league‘s top scorers after the new year.

Gylfi is not only able to score magnificent goals, but he is capable of defence-shattering passes as well.

 

SURE THING

Kundert: We’ve seen how teams have often struggled to break supposedly inferior opponents down so far in this tournament, and with Iceland likely to set up defensively then we might not see as many goals as people expect. Under 2.5 goals is at 1.63.

Einarsson: Iceland has scored in its last nine games and has plenty of firepower up front. The defense has been vulnerable at times and Cristiano Ronaldo will prove to be more than a handful. I‘m pretty sure that both teams will score in this game at 2.50.

 

LONG SHOT

FBL-EURO-2016-FRIENDLY-POR-EST : News Photo

Kundert: Quaresma has been in sparkling form of late. In Portugal’s three warm-up matches he scored three goals and looked the biggest goal threat for Fernando Santos’s side in all three games. At 7.50, Quaresma to score the first goal is a good bet.

Einarsson: It would be nothing short of beautiful to see Icelandic legend Eidur Gudjohnsen come off the bench and score a goal, now that he‘ll finally live his dream of competing in a big tournament. Gudjohnsen might be 37 years old at the end of his career, but his quality shines through each time he gets the ball. So Gudjohnsen to score at 6.75 is something that might happen.

 

SCORE PREDICTION

Kundert: Portugal 1-0 Iceland at 5.25

Einarsson: Portugal 3-1 Iceland at 15.00

 

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