Both of these teams performed excellently in their first games at Euro 2016, and it is hard to decide whose result was more of a shock. Iceland, the smallest country ever to have qualified for a European Championships, performed admirably in coming from behind to draw with Portugal in a game they were widely tipped to lose. Hungary, one of the least fancied teams at the entire tournament, belied their status as underdogs by dominating their game against ‘dark horses’ Austria and winning 2-0.
Iceland: Halldorsson; Sævarsson, R Sigurdsson, Árnason, Skúlason; Gudmundsson, G Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson, Bjarnason; Sigthórsson, Bödvarsson
Hungary: Király, Lang, Guzmics, Pintér, Korhut, Nagy, Elek, Kleinheisler, Dzsudzsák, Németh, Gera
But now the tables have turned and neither can realistically be called the underdogs in this game. Both teams will believe that they can win this game, particularly Iceland who can play without fear knowing they have already made history. Hungary were not infallible against Austria and are there to be got at by the strong Icelandic players at set pieces. They are also ideally set up to defend against Hungary’s main attacking threat – their own set-pieces – with the height and power throughout the team. The one sticking point could be that Iceland realistically need to win this game in order to give them the best possible hope of progressing and whether they can chase the win at the same time as staying solid defensively is an interesting question.
Hungary likewise will see Iceland as a team they could and possibly should beat. They will be confident after their excellent performance against Austria and will probably not change their gameplan much. Goalscorer Stieber might have to be content with coming off the bench again, despite having an impact against Iceland. His introduction allowed Hungary to attack with a bit more dynamism in their last game, but before that they had seemed more solid and this is surely at the forefront of Hungary’s gameplan; stay solid for 60-70 minutes, then, depending on what has happened in the game, either go for it or sit back and defend. They will also know that a win against Iceland would guarantee them a place in the knockout stages, something that seemed very unlikely just a few days ago.
Both teams are likely to field unchanged lineups, with the exception of Hungary right-back Fiola who is out of the game with an ankle injury and is likely to be replaced by Guzmics.
Games between Iceland and Hungary tend to see goals scored, with the last two games between the side containing ten goals. Hungary have been on top in the most recent meetings, as Iceland haven’t beaten the Hungarians since a 1995 in a Euro 96 qualification game. There is every possibility that, due to what is riding on the game for both teams, this game could be a fantastically good game. On the other hand, it is in both team’s DNA to be strong and hard to beat, so it is unlikely to be a free-flowing goal fest.
Expect to see a powerful contest with some solid challenges and two well-matched teams both gunning for qualification to the next round.
Score prediction: Iceland 1-2 Hungary