Portugal 1-1 Iceland
Tonight’s game will live long in the memory of Icelandic football fans as their side put in an incredible display to draw one all with Portugal in Group F. Portugal had taken the lead through Nani but a second half resurgence saw Birkir Bjarnason fire home a volley to level the game.
As the teams emerged out of the tunnel and onto the pitch the enormity of Iceland’s achievement to have made it this far might have hit the players – they defeated Holland twice in the course of qualifying also overcoming Turkey and the Czech Republic. Cristiano Ronaldo spearheaded a Portuguese side full of household names but it was the outsiders who had the first attempt on goal. Three minutes into the game Swansea man Gylfi Sigurdsson began a solo run on the right-wing he cut into the box unleashing a ferocious shot that was blocked by goalkeeper Rui Patricio the rebound was hit by Siguardsson but Patricio once again saved. Portugal began to settle into their passing style after a tense opening quarter of an hour. Ronaldo crossed the ball into the Icelandic area Nani rose to head it home but Hannes Thor Halldorsson’s leg was able to prevent an almost certain goal. Halldorsson was heroic throughout the game and his stops in the first half kept Iceland alive. Ronaldo also had a chance to fire his side ahead when an over the top ball unlocked the defence but the Real Madrid star missed the ball with his swinging effort.The Portuguese pressure was growing and it was clear there was only so much the Icelandic defence could absorb. Portugal took the lead in the 31st minute when Andre Gomes made ground up the right flank he cut the ball back into the 18 yard box where an unmarked Nani tapped the ball past Halldorsson. Iceland survived the remaining quarter of an hour to trail by just one at halftime.
Iceland’s coach Lars Lagerback must have given his men one hell of a team talk because they were a transformed side in the second 45 minutes. Just five minutes after the restart they were level. Portugal’s Vieirinha lost the flight of a deep cross from Johann Gudmundsson and Birkir Bjarnason found himself relatively unmarked. The long-haired midfielder latched his right foot onto the ball powering it past the sprawling Patricio. The fans present in the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard went wild as I imagine most of the 330,000 inhabitants of the volcanic island did back home.
Iceland were sloppy in the first half. They didn’t press Portugal allowing the Iberian men time and space on the ball. This was not the case in the second period, every Portuguese man was pressured and the Icelandic eleven covered almost every blade of grass. The strategy was clear – boot the ball forward no matter what. Halldorsson was tested by Gomes and snuffed out another attack collecting the ball at Nani’s feet. Iceland weren’t afraid of Portugal they went in search of a winner and striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson had a feisty battle with center-back Pepe. The forward fouled Pepe but the Portuguese man was fortunate to remain on the pitch after he lashed out with his legs following the incident. Portugal’s goalscorer went close once again with a header that flew just wide of the goal. Ronaldo wasn’t at the races tonight and blazed a shot over the bar before substitute Ricardo Quaresma took on a strike that was once again kept out by the reliable Halldorsson. Substitute Alfred Finnbogason also had a chance when he made his way into the box but Pepe was able to quash his advance five minutes from time. Later into the game Ronaldo squandered a gilt-edged chance when Nani’s cross picked him out only for the prolific goalscorer to head into the welcoming arms of Halldorsson.
Iceland conceded a free in the last-minute of additional time 30 odd meters out from goal. Ronaldo stood over the ball surely this would be his moment of glory. He struck the ball straight into the Icelandic wall but referee Cuneyt Cakir felt substitute Alfred Finnbogason had used his arm to impede its flight. A free kick much closer to goal now awaited Ronaldo. It wasn’t his night as once again his attempt found the wall. The referee blew his whistle and Iceland celebrated a spirited performance that did the tiny nation proud.
Hungary sit at the top of Group F following their win over Austria today while Iceland and Portugal are joint second above bottom side Austria.
Man of the Match (UEFA) – Luis Nani (Portugal)
My Man of the Match – Hannes Thór Halldórsson.
- Renato Sanches replaces Joao Moutinho 71 mins
- Ricardo Quaresma replaces Joao Mario 76 mins
- Eder replaces Andre Gomes 84 mins
- Alfred Finnbogason replaces Kolbeinn Sigthorsson 81 mins
- Elmar Bjarnason replaces Johann Berg Gudmundsson 90 + mins
Portugal – None
Iceland – Birkir Bjarnason, Alfred Finnbogason.