Weary Iceland could melt in second half and provide Austria with a golden opportunity to qualify.
No team has done more running without the ball than Iceland over the first two weeks of Euro 2016. If you divide distance covered stats by possession percentage, then Lars Lagerback’s men have spent around 148 kilometres chasing the ball and closing down space, some 11 kilometres more than next-highest Czech Republic and 40 kilometres more than the overall average.
It’s a remarkable statistic, not least because the North Atlantic minnows selected the same starting 11 against both Portugal and Hungary, with eight players completing the entire 180 minutes. And though Austria have looked relatively clueless as an attacking entity thus far, they could be the chief beneficiaries should a third outing in the space of eight days take its toll.
There were clear signs that Iceland were flagging in their last outing against Hungary. They won 18 aerial duels during the game, but lost all eight that occurred after the 63rd minute. They won possession back from the Magyars 13 times, but only once in the final 25 minutes. The accumulation of draining effects eventually took their toll with a cruel own goal on 88 minutes.
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Had Birkir Saevarsson been able to sort his feet out, Iceland would now be through. How much that late setback has affected them over the past four days, only time will tell. But with shots arriving at a rate of one every 22.5 minutes, it’s hard to imagine them approaching this any other way than clinging on for dear life and hoping three points and a zero goal difference takes them through.
As Austria showed in their opening game against Hungary, they clearly have a problem breaking down packed defences, so it’s not unreasonable to expect a goalless first period. But if Marcel Koller’s men stay patient and keep knocking at the door, it should open eventually, allowing them to claim a place in the last 16 that, on balance, they barely deserve.
It’s hard to rustle up too much excitement about the 11/10 available on Austria to win the game, although if Iceland do hit the proverbial brick wall, it might well transpire to be excellent value. However, based on the respective characteristics displayed by the two teams so far, the Draw/Austria half-time/full-time outcome at 4/1 is a much easier bet to get on board with.
If Austria do force the breakthrough, don’t expect them to be too cavalier thereafter. They will be totally confident of keeping Iceland at arm’s length, providing they do nothing silly, and a high uncertainty avoidance approach should be expected. As such, the Austria 1-0 correct score is also worth a punt at Bet Victor’s standout best price of 11/2.
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