You may think there would be little to interest Australian soccer fans as Europe’s major tournament plays out in France but this is a massive competition with some great football on show. Added to that general interest are two players in particular who will attract more attention than many as the European Championship develops.
Janko fires a blank
Supporters of Sydney FC will surely be interested to see how their former striker Marc Janko fares as Austria look to make inroads into Group H but it was a poor start for the 32 year old and the country as a whole. The Austrians have only qualified for one major tournament since the World Cup of 1998 and although they were not expected to go deep into Euro 2016, they should have taken at least a point over rivals Hungary.
After a prolific career, Janko is the man charged with firing those crucial goals that will take his side beyond the group stages but after a poor overall performance, the FC Basel striker was hauled off by coach Marcel Koller after just 59 minutes.
The veteran was admittedly not at his best but was getting very little service up front. It’s an important tournament for Janko on a personal level too. He has enjoyed an amazing career in Switzerland and in his native Austria, either side of those 16 goals in 24 games for Sydney in 2014-15. If he were able to prove that he could make a difference on one of the biggest stages of them all, then perhaps an even more lucrative move to one of Europe’s biggest leagues could be in prospect.
As it is, the centre forward will have to improve in the next game while Austria have it all to do as they face tough fixtures against Portugal and Iceland. Their only hope seems to be the new structure which allows the four best third placed teams to progress into the knockouts.
The only current A League player in the squads at Euro 2016 is Melbourne City’s Aaron Hughes who sat out Northern Ireland’s defeat against Poland in Group C. The country has two more fixtures left in that section – vital ties against Germany and Ukraine – and you would think that a man of Hughes’ experience – the 36 year old has exactly 100 full caps – will be used in ties where his country simply must not lose.
Pundits would argue that the Northern Irish need to strengthen their striking options before bringing in Hughes to help out the defence. The back line stayed strong in that Poland game – only conceding once while managing to shut out the lethal Robert Lewandowkski who equalled David Healy’s record of 13 goals in Euro 2016 qualifying. Goals will therefore be a priority for the team moving forward and just one breach of the Polish line would have left Northern Ireland in a handy position going into their remaining group matches.
Hughes has only made six league appearances for Melbourne City – scoring once – and he has suggested that he may retire after this tournament. So, the 36 year old will hardly go down in folklore as a legend for the Heart supporters.
However, his appearance would certainly add more interest to the tournament while it’s also hoped that Marc Janko is retained after that poor opening display for Austria. There is plenty of action left at Euro 2016 and two men with heavy A League connections will be hoping to make more of an impact as the competition progresses.