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Ronaldo's Portugal
Fernando Santos’s side were expected to be among the favourites but are already playing catch-up to group leaders Hungary after a draw with the islanders

Maybe after beating The Netherlands, Turkey and the Czech Republic to get to Euro 2016, Iceland might be feeling a little disappointed after failing to beat Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal during their first-ever major tournament match – a 1-1 draw here at Euro 2016. 

If that underplays this terrific result then it only serves to illustrates the mindset present in each and every player in the squad – and every fan in the stands for that matter too. For 90 minutes they took everything Ronaldo had to throw at them and not only survived but proved to be Portugal’s equal. Had Alfred Finnbogason managed to steer a late shot past the Portugal goalkeeper instead of straight at him, it could have been even better. 

“I think we were a bit unlucky not to steal the win at the end with Finbogason’s chance,” said centre back Kari Arnason. “The second half played into our hands. “We didn’t have the ball much, obviously, but we were solid and we can always catch people on the counter. There’s not many people who want to play against our forwards in the form they were in today.”

  • They should have led through Gylfi Sigurdsson; Portugal were frozen early on as the Swansea man forced a double save from Rui Patricio after slipping by Danilo. Gradually, though, Portugal’s experience began to tell. 
  • The statistics, shots, passes, possession, will tell you Portugal dominated but the most telling one usually lies in the top left-hand corner of your television screen. Iceland – by half time – did indeed look like they were foundering but still in it. Portugal were a goal up – given to them courtesy of Nani – while Joao Mario, Joao Moutinho and Andre Gomes were having their merry way in midfield. 

    Nonetheless, it was Iceland who came out the stronger on the break – catching the Portuguese cold and equalising through new national her Birkir Bjarnason. He met the left-footed cross of Johann Gudmundsson perfectly to steer the ball past Rui Patricio. 

    “It’s one of my – and our – proudest moments in the history of the Icelandic national team,” veteran Eidur Gudjohnsen said. “We’ve already made history by being here and I think today we showed exactly why.”

  • The Portuguese support was stunned into silence and that was in stark contrast to what was happening at the other end. The noise from the Iceland fans – they are estimated to have brought about 10 per cent of population of 330,000 to France – remained high throughout. Their songs were as coordinated and as aggressive as the football their team played on the pitch. 

    They will have made many friends here and around the world for the way they took on Ronaldo – the world’s best – and matched him up. 

    The Portugal captain will be criticised for this peformance, it goes with the territory when you’re a Champions League winner. He was barged off the ball once or twice and he didn’t like it. He asked for his team mates to raise their game. He argued too much with the referee with things not going Portugal’s way. And, crucially, he missed one clear chance in the first half and another in the second. He barely got room to work with the ball at his feet because of excellent defending from Arnason and Ragnar Sigurdsson.

    “We didn’t pay any extra attention to him,” said Arnason. “Obviously everyone knows how good he is so you have to know where he is at every given moment but there was nothing in our game plan to specifically close him down. We just knew we had to be close to him at every given moment and and it worked perfectly.”

    In all there were close to 30 Portuguese attempts on goal but Hannes Halldorsson was equal to many of them. He clawed Ronaldo’s volley away after somehow scrambling to another one from Nani. He denied a deflected Quaresma shot and Ronaldo’s second header in the closing stages. It was an inspired goalkeeping display behind a team who more than did their fair share. 

    There is a close bond forged between this Iceland team and their backers in the crowd. They are one and the same. That kind of togetherness helped them upset three more favoured teams to take their place at Euro 2016 in the first place and they have already started melting hearts here.

Ranieri thrilled as Iceland start in style

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