Iceland v Austria match preview, 5pm, 22/06/2016

Austria must beware; Iceland are coming. In only their third ever game at a European Championship (or any other tournament, come to that) Iceland are just one result away from qualifying for the knock-out stages. Austria, by contrast, have hugely underwhelmed in France and will be hoping that a possible win in this fixture will be enough to send them through and spare their blushes.

Predicted Line-ups

Iceland: Halldorsson; Sævarsson, R Sigurdsson, Árnason, Skúlason; Gudmundsson, G Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson, Bjarnason; Sigthórsson, Bödvarsson.

Austria: Almer, Dragović, Fuchs, Klein, Prödl, Baumgartlinger, Alaba, Harnik, Junuzović, Janko, Arnautović

Austria will be buoyed by the knowledge that they have never lost to Iceland but that is unlikely to offer much hope for the Austrians who have yet to score at Euro 2016 and who haven’t won now for three games. Austria are also highly unlikely to be able to even qualify from the group, which must be considered a massive disappointment considering that they were many people’s pre-tournament tips as a dark horse. Key players like Arnautović, Janko and Alaba have been relatively anonymous and to get anything from this tough Iceland side they will all need to put in big performances tonight.

Iceland, by contrast, are having an excellent debut tournament and have a much more realistic chance of qualifying from their group, where a potential clash against England may await. They will again be underdogs against Austria, but they seem to relish that tag and are excellent at playing defensive football whilst launching attacks on the counter. It would be churlish to write them off in this game after they came from behind to draw with Portugal and were only moments away from beating Hungary.

It is hard, given the difference in form of both teams to see Iceland losing this game but stranger things have happened. That said, it is clear from the performances of the Icelandic players that they want to carry on their adventure in France and given the way that they play, this will almost certainly give them the edge against Austria. Moreover, given that Austria absolutely have to win this game (and to be even more sure, they have to win big) to give themselves any hope at all of qualification, they will have to attack and that will play directly into the hands of the Icelanders who are more than capable of sitting deep and then hitting their opponents on the counter.

One final thing to remember, however, is that Iceland also need a win here. A draw is unlikely to be enough to make them one of the best placed third placed teams should Portugal beat Hungary. If Hungary and Portugal draw or Hungary wins, then a draw for Iceland might be enough but the only way to guarantee their progress in the tournament is with a win.

It may not be the most beautiful game but it will almost certainly be exciting and given a choice between watching both Group F games, this would be the one that I would chose.

Prediction: Iceland 2-1 Austria

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