Portugal need a win or may face a top gun in the last 16, Jake Jackman thinks they can cope with the challenge of Hungary tomorrow night.
Wednesday 22nd June 2016 – 17:00 BST
EURO 2016 – GROUP F
HUNGARY v PORTUGAL
Group F has been a horrible group to try and predict, with all four sides capable to beating each other. Hungary have already qualified for the next stage, with four points being good enough to get through as a best third place at least, making their last minute goal against Iceland, a priceless one. Portugal have picked up two points, and have struggled in the final third especially, with a lot of that being due to the individual struggles of Cristiano Ronaldo. I did voice my concerns about the fitness of the self-professed world’s best player, and he doesn’t look like he is at 100%.
Despite the struggles of Ronaldo, Portugal are a lot better side than they have shown so far at this tournament, with the midfield having several exciting talents. Andre Gomes has stood out so far, and has run both matches, with his dribbling ability and eye for a pass standing out. Renato Sanches could be deployed in this match, and the new Bayern Munich signing has all the tools to make an impact at this tournament, despite his age. Ronaldo looks to trying to carry this side, and he doesn’t have to, as he has some very talented individuals around him. He doesn’t have to carry this side, and needs to understand that if Portugal are to progress deep into the competition.
Hungary have been one of the surprises of the competition, playing a vibrant passing game, which has been exciting to watch. Their ability in the final third is questionable, as they struggled to break down a well organised Iceland side, but they will not be pushovers at this tournament for anybody. They older players may be tiring and they could opt to rest some players against Portugal with an eye on the knockout stages.
I think Cristiano Ronaldo will break his duck on Wednesday, and enter the knockout stages with much more confidence. He has been getting into the right areas, but his finishing has let him down. He will know that he can’t afford to have three under-par performances, and the Hungary defenders won’t have much experience playing against someone with his ability. He needs to share the responsibility with his team-mates and if he manages to grasp that, he could still have a great tournament. I think backing Ronaldo to score in this one is worth it, he doesn’t go long without finding the back of the net.
In terms of a result, Portugal have the experience and will know that they need a win to confirm their place in the knockout stages. Hungary have already clinched a place in the next stage and could ease off in this one, instead choosing to focus on their next match, with England most likely their next opposition. Portugal haven’t been as bad as people have made out in their opening two matches, they just need to improve in the final third. As much as you may dislike him, it is hard to believe that Ronaldo will continue to fire blanks.