Portugal vs Austria: Both sides seeking redemption

www.theguardian.com
www.theguardian.com

After a disappointing Euro 2016 opener, both Portugal and Austria will be looking to get up and running at the Parc des Princes on Saturday.

When this group was announced, both Portugal and Austria were billed as the two sides to go through. However, each was handed a rude awakening in their opening matches. Portugal, pitted against debutants Iceland, fluffed their lines and ended up setting for a disappointing draw. The fans and Portuguese media were obviously nonplussed, and Cristiano Ronaldo was not shy about sharing his opinion following the game.

Not surprisingly, he was slammed for his comments about Iceland and will be under pressure to perform on Saturday. CR7 may have tried to lay the blame at Iceland’s door – for playing “anti-football” – but in all honesty, the debutants played a fantastic match and thoroughly deserved a point. As for Portugal, they had a whopping 26 shots on goal – and scored just one. Iceland, by contrast had four attempts – and converted one.

One does not have to be a math whiz to figure out who was the better side on the night. And CR7 will be under immense pressure to step up after a dismal showing by his high standards. Still, there were some positives. New Bayern Munich signing Renato Sanches became Portugal’s youngest player ever to feature in a major tournament. As a reward, Fernando Santos could hand him a start for this fixture. Should that happen, either Danilo or Joao Moutinho will be sacrificed.

Ricardo Quaresma is another player who may feature from the onset – should he be fit enough. After his error cost Portugal the win, Vieirinha’s place could be under threat.

Meanwhile, Marcel Koller’s men are in a hole after losing 2-0 to Hungary. Like Portugal, Austria came to France earmarked as another dark horse. They certainly did not show that against the Hungarians, and now have to turn things around against their toughest group opponent.

Key defender Alexander Dragovic is suspended for this game, and Zlatko Januzovic limped off injured, putting his participation in doubt. Given that Austria have failed to keep clean sheets in their past 13 games, it goes without saying that this is a major issue.

Without a defensive mainstay or potential creative option, Koller may have to really reshuffle his starting XI. Austria are presently ranked 10th in the world – which is their highest ever placement in their history. With three out of their last four matches finishing as 1-1 draws, could fans be in for the same at Euro 2016?

Michelle Bonsu

Freelance football journalist based in New York. Primarily support AC Milan as well as the Ghanaian and Italian NT’s, but you’ll find me watching the Bundesliga and Premier League as well–enjoy a good game, regardless of where it’s being played. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of my favourite players.