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Portugal need Ronaldo to fire, last-chance saloon for Austria

Portugal need Ronaldo to fire, last-chance saloon for Austria

PARIS: Underwhelming through two goalless games, Cristiano Ronaldo has another chance to shine.

The Portugal forward has failed get his team going at Euro 2016, missing an easy chance late in the 1-1 draw with Iceland last Tuesday before firing a penalty against the post late in the 0-0 draw against Austria on Saturday.

But Ronaldo and his team-mates still have a chance to reach to the round of 16 when they face Hungary on Wednesday at Stade de Lyon even though they go into the Group ‘F’ match in third place and a distinctly uncomfortable position.

Only a win over the unbeaten Hungarians (four points) will take them into the last 16 without depending on the other match.




Hungary, meanwhile, need a draw to make sure of a top-two finish although even if they lose they could qualify as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Iceland are second in the group, level with Portugal on two points after they followed the draw against Portugal with another 1-1 draw against Hungary, and face bottom-placed Austria (one point) in the other group game and a first-ever European Championship win for either country should earn a spot in the round of 16.

Iceland can advance as group winners, runners-up or as one of the best third-place teams, and a third straight draw might be enough.

One point is no good for the Austrians, who must win to have any hope of staying in France after a 2-0 opening defeat to Hungary.

But the spotlight will be on Ronaldo, Portugal’s all-time leading scorer with 58 goals, as he looks to become the first person to score at four consecutive European championship finals and help his team into the next round.

“This isn’t the first time this has happened in his career,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said.

“In the past he has gone two or three matches without scoring, and then he would suddenly score a lot of goals, and I am completely convinced that this will happen.”

Portugal had 23 shots on the Austria goal — hitting the woodwork twice — and Santos expects his side to find the net and win ‘ugly’ if need be.

“Sometimes, I get the feeling that we are ashamed about being ugly, or not being pretty. If we have to be ugly and that brings us efficiency, we have to be ugly. I’m ugly by nature and I don’t mind being even uglier.”

Like Portugal, Marcel Koller’s Austria have one “uncomfortable” last chance to salvage their campaign in their final group game against Iceland at the Stade de France.

Touted as dark horses before the tournament, Austria have struggled to reproduce their impressive qualifying form and Koller, who faces mounting pressure despite signing a two-year extension in March, knows Austria face a real scrap to avoid elimination.

“We certainly can’t presume that the game against Iceland will be easier,” he said. “It will be a very uncomfortable game.

“They’re very disciplined, strong in the tackle and compact defensively as they’ve proved in their two games here.”

Iceland, with a population of about 330,000, are the smallest country ever to qualify for the Euros, yet have been undaunted by their casting as minnows through resilient displays in Group ‘F’.

“Austria have a good side, but we also have a superb one,” Iceland winger Johann Gudmundsson said. “We are going there to pick up the three points, nothing else is on offer.”

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2016

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