Hungary coach Bernd Storck has a clear message for his players heading into their decisive match against Portugal: Don’t obsess over Cristiano Ronaldo. (RESULTS | STANDINGS)
Having not scored in Portugal’s first two games at the European Championship, the pressure is on Ronaldo to deliver against Hungary in their final Group F match on Wednesday. All four teams in the group have a chance to make it through to the round of 16.
“Everybody is always asking about Cristiano Ronaldo,” Storck said through a translator at Stade de Lyon on Tuesday.
“I don’t think he is the only world-class player on this team. We have to be compact, fight for each other, and be brave. It’s not just about their No. 7.”
Portugal has a wealth of experienced players, including Pepe in defense, midfielder Joao Moutinho, and forward Nani the only Portuguese player to score at the tournament so far. But all the attention is on the 31-year-old Ronaldo, who has missed 22 chances at Euro 2016 including a penalty kick.
His side, which has been tipped by many to go deep in the competition, has only managed two draws and stands on the brink of not making it out of the group stage at the European Championship for the first time if it gets nothing out of its match against Hungary.
Hungary midfielder Gergo Lovrencsics said he hoped Ronaldo, a three-time world player of the year and record goal scorer for his country, doesn’t suddenly rediscover his finishing touch.
“We are aware that he is their most dangerous player, but Portugal has a lot of class on their team,” he said. “I think we have an antidote for them, and we will see if it is good enough tomorrow.”
Storck gave no hints about his strategy. In the 2-0 win over Austria, he used a 4-1-4-1 with Adam Szalai up front. But then he switched to a 4-3-3 in a 1-1 draw with Iceland, dropping Szalai for Tamas Priskin.
Though comparisons with the great Hungary sides of the 1950s are unfair, the team has made a surprisingly good start to its first major tournament in 30 years. It has four points and only needs a draw to go through to the round of 16.
Hungary will win Group F with a victory over Portugal, which enters the match in third place level on two points with second-place Iceland. Austria has one point and plays Iceland also on Wednesday.
“Who would have thought that before the last match we would be top of the group with four points and Portugal absolutely has to win tomorrow to qualify?” Storck said. “I can’t compliment my team enough.”
To protect the Stade de Lyon pitch from deteriorating after last week’s persistent rain, Portugal trained Tuesday morning at their camp in Marcoussis near Paris before traveling. Hungary ran their practice session before the match at an alternative pitch in Lyon.