Portugal v Iceland, Group F – 14/06/2016, 9pm, Saint Etienne
Group F favourites were held to a shock draw as Iceland frustrated Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portuguese side.
Iceland made their major tournament debut this evening against the Portuguese and were clear underdogs prior to kick-off in Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint Etienne. Although, being the second-favourites for this game, the supporters were in full voice throughout the night – with a predicted 10% of Iceland’s 331,000 population in the stadium or in the fan zones.
The first chance of the game surprisingly came to midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson after just four minutes of play. The Swansea City man cut in from the left-wing on the counter attack and found his way into the box before shooting towards the near post but his effort was saved by Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio. Sigurdsson got on the end of the rebound but it was a standard save for the Sporting Lisbon number one.
Real Madrid forward Ronaldo struggled to get going in the early stages of the game, having just five touches in the opening fifteen minutes – the least of any Portugal player.
Portugal began to pile on the pressure after right-back Vieirinha had cut-in and was allowed the time and space to shoot, his left-foot effort from outside the box forcing Halldorsson to punch it in the air before collecting at the second attempt.
Portugal continued to go forward with Cristiano Ronaldo sending in a cross into the middle of the box, where former Manchester United teammate Nani met it with a header, forcing a spectacular save from Halldorsson.
Four minutes later in the twenty-sixth minute centre-back Pepe sent a ball forward over the top, similar to Italy’s first goal against Belgium, however, Ronaldo was unable to get on the end of it and the ball went out for a goal-kick.
The deadlock was broken thirty minutes into the first-half as winger Nani got on the end of an André Gomes cross from the right to slide it past the Iceland goalkeeper at the near post. That goal meant the Fenerbache player had scored in back-to-back competitive international games for the first time since September 2008.
Just before half-time, we saw glimpses of a Manchester United Luis Nani as the 29-year-old broke on the counter-attack all the way into the opposition’s box before attempting a pass to Pepe, however, a poor pass resulted in the ball going straight into Halldorsson’s arms. The two sides went into half-time with Portugal having 70% possession but just the one goal to show for it.
It didn’t take long though for the Icelanders to equalise after the interval. Bjarnason took a well-taken volley to put his country level, some will say it was a result of poor defending from Portugal with full-back Vieirinha falling asleep at the far post to allow the Icelander to get on the end of a Johann Gudmundsson cross and bury it home past Patricio.
Valencia midfielder André Gomes tried his luck with a shot, a curled effort from outside the box but Iceland goalkeeper Halldorsson read it and sent the ball out for a corner. Gomes meet the corner but yet again the ‘keeper made the save.
Pepe could have been sent-off in the 68th minute after a harsh tackle on an opposition player but referee Cuneyt Cakir failed to see the incident and the defender was lucky to still be on the pitch.
Vieirinha then swept in a sumptuous inswinging free-kick, which goalscorer Nani flicking it on but he did not get enough on it and the ball sailed agonisingly wide. Just minutes later, Iceland were appealing for a free-kick right on the edge of the Portuguese box as Vieirinha appeared to have handled the ball but replays showed the Wolfsburg full-back attempted to get his arm out of the way.
Portugal kept up the pressure with a free-kick from Cristiano Ronaldo which was deflected out for a corner. The resulting set-piece was met by Pepe from substitute Ricardo Quaresma’s cross but the header landed on the roof of the net – allowing Iceland to breathe again.
In the 86th minute, the Icelanders had a rare opportunity to get a winner as Finnbogason struck the ball towards Portugal’s goal but goalkeeper Patricio was equal to the effort.
Not much of note occurred in the final minutes of the game with it ending 1-1, thanks to goals from Portugal’s Luis Nani and Iceland’s Bjarnason.
Portugal: Patricio; Vieirinha, Pepe, Carvalho, Guerreiro; Moutinho, Danilo, Mario, Gomes; Ronaldo, Nani
Iceland: Halldorsson, Saevarsson, Sigurdsson, Gudmundsson, Bjarnason, Sigthorsson, Sigurdsson, Arnason, Gunnarsson, Skulason