MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) picks out his best bets from Wednesday night’s Group F concluder between Hungary and Portugal in Lyon.
Hungary v Portugal | Wednesday 17.00 | BBC1
Hungary meet Portugal in Group F’s concluding clash from Lyon on Wednesday evening knowing progression to the knockout stages is all but assured following their four-point haul against Iceland and Austria.
The Hungarian Football Federation set an ambitious target of four points this summer and I scoffed at the prospect of the Magyars actually fulfilling their obligations.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by their progress but the bookmakers are refusing to take the team too seriously, chalking Bernd Storck’s side up as 11/1 (Betway) rags here.
Portugal have won all five previous contests between the two nations and although the Selecao have been off-colour in the final third, they remain hot 2/5 (Matchbook) favourites to pick up the victory they require to reach the Last-16.
Portugal have only two points to show for their efforts from the first two rounds of Euro 2016 action despite out-shooting their opponents 49-8. But drill a bit deeper and when viewing shots from open play inside the penalty box (excluding headers) and the shot count reads 4-4.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s wayward efforts take up the bulk of those trends and the Real Madrid superstar has failed to fire this summer. CR7’s fourth missed penalty in five attempts hogged the headlines against Austria on the night he became his country’s record appearance holder.
The Portuguese skipper cut a hugely frustrated figure in Paris as the Selecao played out a 0-0 draw. Austrian goalkeeper Robert Almer made a string of sensational saves but just like Portugal’s 1-1 draw with Iceland, the Iberian outfit were unable to turn their dominance into victory.
Nevertheless, should Fernando Santos’ team continue to create chances, Ronaldo should be expected to come good. With Euro 2016 fate on the line, Portugal are in the last chance saloon and know another poor performance in the final third is likely to see an early exit home.
Meanwhile, Hungary trailed Iceland due to Gyfli Sigurdsson’s first-half penalty in their second outing but Storck’s side dominated possession from then on and eventually bagged a late equaliser, despite being continually frustrated by a well-organised and disciplined Icelandic backline.
The Magyars ended a three-decade run of missing out on major tournaments by qualifying for Euro 2016, and they made up for lost time with an impressive 2-0 win over Austria in their opening group game.
Gabor Kiraly caught the eye against the Austrians, both for his attire and his saves, as he became the oldest player to play at European Championship finals at the age of 40 years and 75 days,
However, he was less impressive against Iceland, putting his defence under pressure with poor passes before flapping at the ball to add to the panic that led to Iceland’s penalty.
The veteran cat will no doubt be under huge pressure from the Portuguese attack here but Hungary should still be fancied to keep this contest competitive.
All seven of Portugal’s qualifying victories were by one-goal margins as the Selecao managed just 11 goals en-route to France. And before the pre-tournament friendlies, the Selecao had won 12 matches under Santos – 11 of those victories were by one-goal margins with a 2-0 triumph over minnows Luxembourg the exception.
Hungary’s last five matches have produced just eight goals and with half of the Magyars’ 12 qualifiers featuring fewer than two goals, another low-scoring tie could be on the cards at Euro 2016.
Portugal’s lack of cutting edge makes the chances of a walkover win appear slim so I’ll back Hungary with a +1.5 Asian Handicap at 8/11 (BetVictor) as well as having a wee wager on the Portuguese to win by exactly one goal (5/2 SkyBet).