MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) picks out his recommended betting angles for Iceland’s crunch Group F clash with Hungary at Euro 2016 on Saturday evening.
Iceland v Hungary | Saturday 17.00 | BBC1
Group F was turned upside down following the first round of group-games at Euro 2016. With Hungary unexpectedly sitting top of the tree, the Magyars will be looking to make it two wins from two when they lock horns with Iceland on Saturday evening.
What looked like a wooden spoon battle when the draw was made is now anything but. Hungary surprised many with their impressive 2-0 success over the well-fancied Austrians in their opener but can Bernd Storck’s side follow up with another fine performance here?
Iceland made plenty of headlines when drawing 1-1 with Portugal. They were the smallest nation in terms of population to ever take part in the Euros and survived a Portuguese onslaught to pick up a point on their debut appearance.
Gylfi Sigurdsson almost put the minnows in front early on before Nani slotted Portugal ahead. But Our Boys battled back thanks to a Birkir Bjarnason volley and having beaten the Netherlands twice en-route to France, Lars Lagerback’s men refused to buckle under Portugal’s pressure.
During qualification, Iceland enjoyed minimal possession and the underdogs enjoyed just 27.8% of the ball in their first fixture with keeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson called into making eight saves. However, Our Boys still troubled their more illustrious opponents in their few attacking forays.
For Hungary, Adam Szalai and substitute Zoltan Stieber scored the goals to give the Magyars a memorable three points in their first showing at a major tournament since 1986. Storck’s side triumphed by virtue of superior work-rate, organisation and quality.
Without a host of household names, Hungary’s result was the biggest shock of the first round. The Magyars managed to contain their rivals for the bulk of an intriguing contest and the victory has put the team on the brink of knockout qualification.
Zoltan Gera rolled back the years with the 37-year-old an influential presence in midfield. The playmaker was tidy in possession and also made the most tackles of any player on the pitch. The positive result means the Magyars have now W6-D5-L2 in their past 13 fixtures.
However, it’s probably fair to say that Hungary’s performance was out of kilter with their standard displays across the past 24 months. Austria hit the post after 30 seconds and also had what appeared to be a fair goal ruled out, as well as receiving a harsh red card.
It’s worth reminding ourselves that Hungary recorded the lowest goal-difference (+2) of all the qualified teams with Storck’s troops returning 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.
With that in mind, I’m keen to keep Iceland onside here. We can expect the Nordic outfit to take a more offensive approach in Marseille and considering Our Boys have W3-D3-L1 in their past seven competitive outings, backing the pre-match favourites in the Draw No Bet market (10/13 Netbet) makes the most appeal.
Sure, they might be a little tired from their first encounter but Lagerback will ensure they’re regimentally organised and tough to beat. They excelled on a difficult path to Euro 2016 and showcased their togetherness when grinding out a point against Portugal.
Iceland will have targeted this fixture for a victory, knowing a win would certainly seal their place in the knockout stages of the competition.
Our Boys boast the match-winning quality to overcome a stubborn Hungarian side that perhaps enjoyed the rub of the green when upsetting Austria in their opener. And the Magyars may not boast the talent to out-fire plucky Iceland in what’s expected to be a low-scoring duel.
Together the two nations have shipped just 14 goals in 20 competitive matches and with half of Hungary’s 12 qualifiers featuring fewer than two goals, it’s easy to see a repeat on Saturday evening but there’s little mileage in the available prices.
Iceland v Hungary – Iceland draw no bet (10/13 Netbet)