Austria will be regarded as second favourites for Group F behind Portugal but they could well challenge Fernando Santos’ side for top spot - the winners will play the runner-up from the Republic of Ireland’s Group E.

The Austrians are also among Ireland’s qualifying opponents for the 2018 World Cup, making their performance this summer of particular interest.

The country that once finished third at a World Cup (1954) are making their first appearance at a major tournament since Euro 2008, when they suffered the indignity of earning just a single point as co-hosts.

However, they have risen from 70th to 11th in the world since Swiss coach Marcel Koller took over in 2011 and will have higher hopes this time out after coming through qualifying as one of four teams not to lose a game – along with England, Italy and Romania.

Austria won nine out of 10 games to finish eight points ahead of top seeds Russia and 10 clear of Sweden, with their 4-1 victory in Stockholm a particularly eye-catching result. 

Set up to counter-attack, they conceded only five goals in qualifying and goalkeeper Robert Almer went 603 consecutive minutes without picking the ball out of the net.

They are a very settled team and fielded an unchanged line-up in their final six qualifiers.

Bayern Munich’s David Alaba is their standout performer but Stoke striker Marko Arnautovic and Leicester left-back Christian Fuchs will also be familiar to Irish fans.

Towering  Basel striker Marc Janko (6’5)  scored seven goals in qualifying and will be expected to terrorise the Portuguese, Icelandic and Hungarian defences.

Manager: Marcel Koller

Key player: David Alaba

The Vienna-born son of a Nigerian father and Filipino mother has been Austrian Player of year five years in a row and became the country’s youngest ever international when he made his debut aged just 17 in 2009.

He has already won four Bundesligas and a Champions League title wih Bayern, where his versatility is so appreciated that Pep Guardiola said last year: “David Alaba is our god. He has already played almost all 10 positions.”

Alaba usually plays as a full-back for Bayern but is the creative force of Austria’s midfield - as Ireland discovered to their cost when he scored both home and away in World Cup 2014 qualifying, including an injury-time equaliser at the Aviva.

June 14 Austria v Hungary, Stade de Bordeaux, 5pm (Irish time)
June 18 Portugal v Austria, Parc des Princes, Paris, 8pm
June 22 Iceland v Austria, Stade de France, Paris, 5pm


Going through three managers in one qualifying campaign isn’t usually a great indicator of success but it worked for Hungary, who are appearing at a major finals for the first time since the 1986 World Cup.

Attila Pinter was sacked after the 2-1 home defeat to Northern Ireland in the first game and former international Pal Dardai took charge for the next five games, where they managed draws with Romania and Greece and wins over the Faroe Islands and Finland (twice).

Dardai was promoted from assistant coach to manager of Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin in 2015 and, as they were unwilling to allow him to double job, German Bernd Storck took over for the remainder of the campaign.

Hungary secured third place in the group behind the North and Romania and were surprise winners over Norway in the play-offs as 22-year-old Laszlo Kleinheisler (now of Werder Bremen) scored on his international debut for a first leg 1-0 win in Oslo.

Former Watford and Ipswich striker Tamas Priskin then scored a cracker in the home leg of the play-off to confirm Hungary’s passage to the finals.

Former Fulham and West Brom playmaker Zoltan Gera is now 37 and playing in a deeper midfield role while goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly (40) is on course to become the oldest player to appear at a European Championships – he’s 19 days older than Ireland’s Shay Given.

Hungary only scored 14 goals in 12 games in qualifying and will hope that Nemanja Nikolic can bring the prolific form he enjoyed for club Legia Warsaw last season (36 goals in 55 games) to the international stage.

Their game against Austria will be the countries’ 137th meeting, which is the most-played international fixture in European football, and the second internationally behind Argentina and Uruguay.

Manager: Bernd Storck

Key player: Balazs Dzsudzsak

In a squad that’s not exactly overflowing with household names, with most of the players either competing domestically or in Poland, Dzsudzsak stands out.

The captain is a skilful, pacy left-winger, who won the Dutch title with PSV in 2008 and now plays for Bursaspor in Turkey after spells with Anzhi Makhachkala and Dynamo Moscow in Russia.

Dzsudzsak has scored 18 goals in his 76 international appearances and Hungary will be relying on him for creative inspiration this month.

June 14 Austria v Hungary, Stade de Bordeaux, 5pm
June 18 Iceland v Hungary, Stade Velodrome, Marseille, 5pm
June 22 Hungary v Portugal, Stade de Lyon, 5pm


If Hollywood are looking for the next fairytale football story once they finish with Leicester City’s heroics then Iceland are surely worthy candidates.

The north Atlantic island may have been more renowned for ashcloud spewing volcanoes and Bjork than their soccer exploits but that all changed when they became the smallest nation (population 290,000) to qualify for the European Championships, their first major tournament.

Iceland didn’t do it the easy way either, beginning with a 3-0 hammering of Turkey, before beating top seeds The Netherlands home and away and eventual group winners Czech Republic on their way to finishing second. They had led the group until the final round.

Co-managers Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson have put together a tough-tackling defensively disciplined unit, not unlike Ireland in their approach.

Swansea midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson is their man creative threat but captain Aron Gunnarsson of Cardiff anchors the midfield ably and Nantes striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson has 19 goals in 37 games for his country.

The evergreen Eidur Gudjohnsen (37), still playing with Norwegian side Molde after a career that took him to Chelsea and Barcelona, is an impact sub of great experience.

Iceland’s success is being credited with a development plan that started 15 years ago and involved the nationwide construction of indoor venues and 30 full-size all-weather pitches to counteract the restrictions of a freezing winter featuring as little as four hours of daylight.

Getting to the Euros was justification enough for that vision but they will be dreaming of a place in the knockout stages, which is certainly within their potential, especially if they can beat Hungary on 18 June in Marseille.

Managers: Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson

Key player: Gylfi Sigurdsson

The classy midfielder scored six times in qualifying including all the goals in the 2-0 and 1-0 victories over Holland.

Deadly from dead balls and long range, the 26-year-old is the attacking spark in the Icelandic side and big things are expected from him in France.

His career seemed to have stalled slightly after Tottenham won a transfer battle with Liverpool for his services in 2012 and he failed to nail down a starting spot, but since his return to Swansea two seasons ago he has been crucial to the Welsh club’s fortunes and scored 11 goals in the Premier League last season.

June 14 Portugal v Iceland, Stade Geoffroy Guichard, St Etienne, 8pm
June 18 Iceland v Hungary, Stade Velodrome, Marseille, 5pm
June 22 Iceland v Austria, Stade de France, Paris, 5pm


They’re the top seeds in Group F and the fourth highest-ranked side in the competition overall – behind Belgium, Germany and Spain – while in Cristiano Ronaldo they have the tournament’s star name.

Nonetheless, expectations are a little lower for the country that reached the semi-finals of Euro2012, only exiting to eventual winners Spain on penalties, and they are as long odds as 20/1 to finally win a major tournament.

Portugal failed to progress past the group stages of the 2014 World Cup and began their Euro qualifying campaign with a shock 1-0 home defeat to Albania.

That result cost manager Paulo Bento his job but under replacement Fernando Santos they won the remaining seven games to qualify with ease.

Santos has made defensive solidity his priority and the team only conceded five goals in their eight qualifiers. They only scored 11 however and all seven of those wins were by a single-goal margin.

Real Madrid pantomime villain  Pepe (33) and recalled 38-year-old Ricardo Carvalho anchor an defence that could be vulnerable to pace but Portugal have a lot of strength in depth in midfield.

Monaco’s Joao Moutinho is the playmaker while Sporting Lisbon anchorman William Carvalho is a long-time Manchester United transfer target.

Andre Gomes (22) has had a fine season with underachieving Valencia, and big things are also expected of Lisbon’s attacking midfielder Joao Mario (23) and 18-year-old Renato Sanches, who joined Bayern Munich for €35m last month.

The key concern is a distinct lack of forward options to help Ronaldo. Eder, who has been sold by Swansea to Lille after just 15 appearances (four starts) and no goals last season, is the only recognised striker in the squad and his international record of 1 goal in 23 caps doesn’t inspire much confidence.

Manager: Fernando Santos

Key player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Fresh from scoring the decisive penalty in Real Madrid’s Champions League shootout triumph over neighbours Atletico, Ronaldo once again carries the hopes of a nation on his shoulders.

The three-time World Player of Year is the country’s all-time leading goalscorer (56 in 125 caps) and should break Luis Figo’s appearance record of 127 in France.

Though at 31, Ronaldo has lost some of his formerly blistering pace, he retains the skill, aerial and set-piece ability, and eye for goal that has seen him vie with Leo Messi for the title of world’s best over the last decade.

He plays as a striker rather than his club winger role for Portugal and they will be relying on the Madeira man to prove once again that he is a player for the big occasion.

June 14 Portugal v Iceland, Stade Geoffroy Guichard, St Etienne, 8pm
June 18 Portugal v Austria, Parc des Princes, Paris, 8pm
June 22 Hungary v Portugal, Stade de Lyon, 5pm