Don't expect too many goals when Iceland play Hungary on Saturday evening.
Hungary gave us all a lesson in the transient nature of international football with their shock - but thoroughly deserved - win over Austria in the opening game. It was the only performance in the first five days that warranted an alteration to my pre-tournament ratings, a display totally at odds with all of the evidence available prior to this event.
Immense credit must go to German coach Bernd Storck. He was the last of three managers to oversee the Magyars' ropey qualifying campaign and although he did play on the element of surprise to fashion a smash-and-grab play-off win over Norway last November, he simply hadn’t been in charge for long enough to indicate any discernible improvement.
But the Austria game just goes to show the empowering effect that playing at a major tournament can have on some players, and what a debilitating effect it can have on others. Marcel Koller’s operation had been four years in the making prior to that clash in Bordeaux, yet they were made to look like a bunch of strangers once Hungary had seized control with the opening goal.
And so we have a scenario here whereby Hungary can head out looking to execute the same game plan once again, in a match that the vast majority of observers expected to be make or break to their chances of progression. There’s no hurry, just a need to stay compact and organised, biding their time for the right opening to present itself. And this time it’s ‘only’ Iceland.
Euros Bore Draw Money Back with BET365
Given how silly Cristiano Ronaldo looked when trying to belittle the North Atlantic minnows after they frustrated his Portugal side in Saint-Etienne, I’ll refrain from saying anything remotely disparaging about Lars Lagerback’s men. However, the performance data from that clash against the Group F favourites suggests they could be vulnerable here.
When combining possession with ‘distance covered’ stats, you find that Iceland did more running without the ball in their opening match than any other team. In fact, the only other team who came close to their out-of-possession figure of 74km was Ukraine (72km) - and we all know what happened to them next time out. On that basis, we can punt Hungary at over 2/1 with confidence.
Given how the complexion of this group has changed, we shouldn’t expect too many goals in Marseille because both teams now have something more tangible to lose than mere pride. The under 1.5 goals bet, having opened up at 2/1, is now no bigger than 13/8 in the wake of those opening results. However, the 7/1 about Hungary to win 1-0 remains a price worth taking.
Click here for more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system