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Austria's struggles good news for Ireland and more Euro 2016 day 5 talking points

Plus, different tournament, same Portugal, as Iceland make history.
Jun 14th 2016, 11:23 PM 10,613 6

1. Austria’s struggles good news for Ireland

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(Image courtesy of Uefa.com)

RTÉ PUNDIT DIDI Hamann among others had tipped Austria as potential dark horses to win Euro 2016 prior to today’s match with Hungary.

The Austrians were hugely impressive in qualifying — in a group that also featured Russia and Sweden, they dropped points in just one of their 10 games (at home to the Swedes).

Consequently, most people expected them to beat Hungary, who themselves scraped through qualifying, finishing third behind Northern Ireland and Romania in their group.

Yet the Austrians were left frustrated, as they couldn’t open up their opponents, who proceeded to kill them off in the second half with two well-taken goals.

It was a deserved loss — Marcel Koller’s side looked disjointed and defensively vulnerable today, which is good news for Ireland, who will face the Austrians in the upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

2. Different tournament, same Portugal

As is invariably the case, Portugal were talked of as potential outsiders to win Euro 2016 before the competition began — they were ranked among the top eight teams in the betting at the outset of the tournament.

Yet their failure to live up to expectations at major tournaments in recent years has been a recurring theme.

At the last World Cup, they were similarly talked up, but failed to get out of the group stages ultimately.

And even with star man Cristiano Ronaldo in the team tonight, Portugal could not beat Iceland, who for a country with a population of approximately 333,000 are performing minor miracles by simply managing to compete at the highest level of international football.

The Iceland equaliser came from a catalogue of Portugal errors, with full-back Vieirinha in particular badly culpable for its concession, as he was caught ball-watching, enabling Birkir Bjarnason to slot home a famous goal.

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Hence, despite possessing some talented players, including teenage substitute Renato Sanches who Bayern Munich have just bought for €35 million, Portugal just can’t seem to be relied upon at the back and thus seem unlikely to seriously contend for this year’s tournament.

3. David Alaba fails to sparkle

Austria v Hungary - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group F - Stade de Bordeaux David Alaba leaves the pitch at the end of the Euro 2016 Group F soccer match between Austria and Hungary. Source: Hassan Ammar

David Alaba is very highly rated at Bayern Munich and is widely considered as one of the world’s best players.

In 2014, his displays were so impressive that he even got voted into UEFA.com Team of the Year.

Despite only being 23, he is practically a veteran already when it comes to international football — in 2009, he became his country’s youngest player ever, having made his senior debut as a 17-year-old.

One of the reasons why Alaba is so highly rated is his ability to play virtually anywhere — he is capable of featuring across the backline and on the wing, though today, he began the game for Austria in midfield.

However, like the rest of his team, Alaba failed to live up to the hype against Hungary today, struggling to influence proceedings as the 125/1 rank outsiders pulled off the first big shock of the competition.

Watching from the TV3 studios, former midfield great Graeme Souness was particularly scathing in his assessment of Alaba. While praising Alaba’s bravery and athleticism, the ex-Liverpool star suggested the Bayern Munich man lacked a “midfielder’s brain” on the basis of his underwhelming, ineffectual display earlier.

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