MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) is back in the saddle to preview Austria’s encounter with Hungary from Bordeaux on Tuesday evening.
Austria v Hungary | Tuesday 17.00 | ITV
Euro 2016 dark horses Austria arrive in France with arguably their best collection of players in 40 years and the style and swagger shown from Marcel Koller’s men during a near flawless qualifying campaign has gotten many fans excited, including me.
The Alpine outfit swept their rivals aside to finish a full eight points clear of second-placed Russia and 10 points ahead of third-placed Sweden having collected 28 points from a possible 30 (W9-D1-L0) en-route.
Goalkeeper Robert Almer broke a national team record for going 630 minutes without conceding a goal en-route to this summer’s jamboree and boss Koller started nine of the same players during nine qualifiers in the tried-and-trusted 4-2-3-1 formation.
Understandably, there was a great degree of consistency in Austria’s performances. Highly-rated centre-half Aleksandr Dragovic impressed, Leicester’s Christian Fuchs skippered the side superbly and Julian Baumgartlinger gave the group grit and determination alongside the wonderful David Alaba in central midfield.
Going forward, 6ft 5in striker Marc Janko has a superb strike-rate on the international stage and has handy support from the talents of Marko Arnautovic, Martin Harnik and Zlatko Junuzovic tucked in behind. It’s an approach that thrived and can do so again here.
Austria haven’t won a match at a major tournament since 1990 and did lose to Switzerland, Turkey and the Netherlands during friendly fixtures post-qualifying. However, Das Team have scored in 23 of their last 24 outings and should have enough to make their mark here at odds of 20/27 (Netbet).
As well as boasting a strong spine, pace and precision, Koller’s charges should also enjoy an advantage in the fitness stakes. Austria are a squad packed with Bundesliga and Premier League-based players used to the fast pace of Germany’s top league; comparatively, Hungary have an ageing and unremarkable roster.
The Magyars recorded the lowest goal-difference (+2) of all the qualified teams and Bernd Storck’s men managed just four wins at the qualification pool stage (scoring only 11 goals) when finishing third in a soft section that was topped by Northern Ireland.
Despite Hungary’s play-off success against Norway, cat Gabor Kiraly was called upon to rescue the Magyars on more than one occasion and it’s probably not too distrustful to say, Storck’s troops are just happy to be here.
Discipline, aggression and a direct counter-attacking game are the secrets to Hungary’s game-plan but a lack of quality across the board and a limited offensive output are likely to prove the Magyars undoing here.
The Hungarian Football Federation have set an ambitious target of four points from the three games this summer but I reckon they’ll start with a loss. And at odds on offer, Austria are well worth our interest.
However, (before Monday’s football) 69/127 (54%) of European Championship group-games ended in 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 correct scores, so it might be wise to back the pre-match favourites to win plus Under 3.5 Goals (this covers all three correct scores plus a 3-0 whitewash) at even-money with Netbet.
Six of Austria’s nine wins in qualifying came ‘to nil’ and with half of Hungary’s 12 qualifier featuring fewer than two goals, it’s a selection that should give us a good run for our money.
Austria to win and Under 3.5 Goals (1/1 Netbet)