This is becoming a tournament in which teams of individuals are being upstaged by teams full of spirit. Belgium, Austria and now Portugal. Iceland had nowhere near the talent of that Portugal team but the spirit they showed was fantastic. They had belief. A small nation made a big noise. Well done. Thanks for your emails. Here’s Andy Hunter’s match report.
Iceland love-in section
“After years of being trained for disappointment, I really thought Ronaldo would score from that last free kick, especially after that needless handball. I don’t really know how to handle these feelings of national sporting joy. I think I’m just going to go smile at the sky for a bit” – Kári Tulinius.
“This draw will be the biggest thing to happen to Iceland since the 1200s, when Icelanders begin to write down the Old Norse sagas for the first time. Until then, the epic poems, legends and historical tales were memorised and recited. Wonder what they’d write about this!” – Patrick Sullivan.
“Ricky Quaresma has gotten away with murder pretending to be a top-class footballer for more than two decades now. That’s my guess. In any case, I’m off to get my Iceland team shirt printed up with Kavanaghsson on the back. Well done the boys in white!” – Justin Kavanagh (sson).
“In the eternal battle of the World’s Best Players, I’m Team Ronaldo rather than Messi, but I have to say this is magnificent. Iceland have got about the same population as Cardiff, and a draw here puts them in a fantastic place to qualify for the next round. Which, admittedly, also shows how rubbish a 24 team tournament is” – Captain Corduroy.
As for Portugal, well, their build up play was fine but Ronaldo seemed at odd with his midfield. The understanding wasn’t there, particularly in the second half. He had one very good chance and a few half-chances but that was that. The best opportunities came for Nani.
The Iceland players go over to their wall of noise, the 8,000 fans who have made the journey from the volcanic island to watch their team get a point that will be remembered for many, many years to come.
Full-time: Portugal 1-1 Iceland
No. He clatters the ball into the wall again. Cue crazy celebrations from Iceland fans. And players. What a result that is. The biggest of the tournament so far?
90+3 min: … and strikes the wall. But Finbogasson is booked for handball. Ronaldo has another chance 25 yards from goal. A much more promising position. Can he?
90+3 min: Nani is fouled 35 yards out in a central position. Ronaldo is going to take it. Obviously. He strikes that familiar pose …
90+1 min: Quaresma is fouled by Bjarnason on the right wing. This is dangerous. Well, it could have been had Quaresma beat the first man with the resulting free-kick. He didn’t. Quaresma gathers the ball again and plays a cross into the near post that went out of play before coming back in. Goal-kick for Iceland. Can they hang on? Not long …
90 min: Among the action, Eder, who did nothing for Swansea last season, is on for Gomes. And Gudmundsson, who did nothing for Celtic some years ago, is on for Arnason, I think.
88 min: Guerreiro curls a cross towards Ronaldo at the back post but Arnason jumps highest and heads behind for a corner. The corner is cleared and then Ronaldo is penalised for jumping higher than Halldorsson when the keeper and the Portugal forward challenged for a ball. He doesn’t touch the keeper and shouldn’t be penalised. The header was going wide anyway, mind.
87 min: “I just realised Ricky Quaresma is carrying some prison ink, two black teardrops under the right eye, symbolic for murder. Presumably one death represents a promising career. Any guesses in the other?” asks Adam Walker. The shot he just had from 30 yards that cannoned off his standing foot, sent him tumbling on his tail, before floating harmlessly wide. Yes, that shot.
85 min: Ronaldo heads straight at Halldorsson … and then Iceland get men forwards and Sigurdsson stings Patricio’s palms with a snap-shot from 18 yards. Yes folks, it’s end to end.
83 min: Pepe goes close with a header, rippling the top of the net. And then Ronaldo is sent to the floor by a good tackle by Bodvarsson, who strides away before playing a smart pass into the channel for Finnbogason. He scuttles into the box but is ushered towards the byline by Pepe. Portugal win a goal-kick.
80 min: Ronaldo pulls his shorts up to show the world his wonderful thighs and shapes to shoot from a full 35 yards. His shot is low and deflects up off the wall and out for a corner. Guierrero’s corner is cleared by Sigurdsson. Can Iceland hold on?
79 min: Sigthorsson is off. He’s run his socks off. And Finnbogason is on. Meanwhile, Ronaldo is fouled by Gunnarsson, who has given a real captain’s performance tonight – always at his team-mates.
78 min: “It feels like this tournament, with its expanded 24 team format and featuring the likes of Iceland, Wales and Hungary, was specifically designed just to show the rest of Europe and the world how bad Scotland are at football.” It’s Simon McMahon of course. Quaresma had a shot earlier that was deflected. It wasn’t troubling Halldorsson though.
77 min: Portugal win a couple of corners. The first is poor. The second, by Quaresma, is awful. Ronaldo has had a quiet 10 minutes? I may have tempted fate there. Sorry Iceland.
76 min: Iceland are making a game of this now. They have an extended spell of possession in Portugal’s half. Savarsson crosses from the right and Portugal take two attempts to clear. There’s another error in that Portugal defence if Iceland can keep scratching.
75 min: The enigma that is Quaresma is on for Mario, who has been pretty quiet.
73 min: Gunarsson launches a long throw to the near post. Sigthursson flicks the ball into the six yard box. Portugal’s defence looks a little leaden-footed, but it’s just too far in front of Bodvarsson. That was routine set-piece stuff but very effective.
70 min: Renato Sanches, the 18-year-old upon whom loads of expectation has been heaped, is on for Moutinho. There’s a free-kick to Portugal 35 yards out after Ronaldo’s shirt was tugged. The ball’s floated in by Guerreiro to Nani, who cleverly flicks the ball behind him towards the right-hand corner of Iceland’s goal but it’s inches wide. Lovely delivery. Clever header. Still 1-1.
69 min: A plea from Justin Kavanagh. “Can you please tell the 302,589 people left back in Iceland to calm down Gregg: All that jumping around is causing high waves here on the east coast of America.”
67 min: Oh hello! Radnar Sigurdsson makes a wonderful tackle on Ronaldo in the box, watching him all the way and timing his interception to perfection. An Iceland defender clears long, Bodvarsson jumps into Pepe and the Portugal defender goes down like he’s just been hit by a bin wagon. It was a foul. But, well, Pepe.
66 min: Ragnar Sigurdsson wallops a ball long. Pepe wins the header. Portugal attack. Iceland can’t keep doing that. They must hold on to the ball better or bring some fresh legs on to press the ball better.
63 min: Portugal are back in control of the game but their attacks are no longer flowing. They’re a little desperate in fact. There’s a mix-up when Gomes crosses from the right but Halldorsson finally smothers the ball. Portugal substitutes are warming up and giving little looks towards the bench.
60 min: Portugal play a clever short corner. Gomes, I think, hits it straight at Halldorsson. It was so quick in fact that TV cameras didn’t pick it up.
59 min: Gomes sparkles briefly. He shapes to shoot with his right foot on the edge of the box, before showing perfect balance to shift the ball back on to his left foot and curl a low shot at Halldorsson’s right hand side that the goalkeeper makes a meal of, pushing it round the post in the cumbersome manner.
57 min: Portugal break with lazer-sharp speed. Ronaldo plays in Mario to his right, who works the ball back to his captain just outside the box. Ronaldo has a pop from 20 yards with his left foot. But it’s blocked easily and the better option was to play in Nani to his left. But hey, he’s Ronaldo.
55 min: There are a few robust tackles on either side. Bjarnason clatters Mario. And then Pepe catches Arnason late. Ronaldo throws his arms up in the air in frustration. He points hither and thither, half-heartedly, I might add.
53 min: Well, what will this do the confidence levels in both sides? That goal came at a time when Portugal looked like they would keep the ball for the entire second half. Will Iceland now try to expose that flimsy Portugal defence?
Goal! Portugal 1-1 Portugal (Bjarnason 50)
What a moment this is! Iceland have a rare foray forwards. Perhaps because Portugal are already playing with their slippers on – they just don’t close Savarsson down. He has loads of time and whips an inswinging ball in with his left-foot to Bjarnason, Iceland’s best player so far, who sweeps home from six yards. But Vieirinha’s positioning was woeful. He was too far in front of the Iceland winger. Still, let’s focus on Iceland’s joy. The crowd go bonkers. Quite rightly.
48 min: Halldorsson concedes a corner that he really shouldn’t have conceded. Portugal play it short but the resulting cross, by Mario, is poor. It’s been a low key start to the second half. Portugal are bossing it, mind.
46 min: It takes a blocked Ronaldo shot before Iceland do get a touch. And then from a ball dropping from miles up in the air, Ronaldo shoots a yard wide. It was by no means an easy effort. He just couldn’t connect cleanly.
45 min: Portugal begin the second half much as they ended the first: in control. In fact, Iceland haven’t touched the ball in a full minute.
“I think that the chant that sounded a bit Sigur Rosy to you was the “áfram Ísland” (go Iceland) chant that has a dum-dum-dum da-dum rhythm, with a descending note at the end,” writes Kári Tulinius. It’s not this is it Kári? If so, I apologise to Sigur Ros.
“This game is heaven for the neutral fan,” cheers Ezra Cohen. “At one end a team that boasts one of the richest players in the world and a player who spends more time on the ground holding his face than playing. On the other end a team of underdogs whose capital nobody can pronounce and whose best player’s first name is Gylfi.”
“I come neither to bury Pepe nor to praise him. Feel free to carry on hating on that unsavoury character. However, I would argue that he is far from the worst at the dark arts. His tactics are usually so transparent, so blatant, that he gets caught and punished more often than not. An example - here is Pepe being out-play-acted and the referee tricked into a red card by a much dirtier player than him, the execrable Thomas Müller: Müller - a cheap-shot artist, a diver, constantly harassing the referee - he is a lot worse than the clownish Pepe, but gets away with it. But by all means, keep punching the same pinata all you want. Love from Switzerland,” – Ursolin Waxoh.
This man lost his job while that first half was under way.
A point from that first half. Both sides have pretty much played 4-4-2s. Take that modern football.
This man has been the difference so far. He could have scored twice too.
Half-time: Portugal 1-0 Iceland
Iceland are second best. Portugal are a class above. Their passing and movement is far superior. That’s what was expected though, so there’s no shame in that. I’ll publish your emails shortly.
45 min: Iceland have a throw deep in the Portugal half. Gunnarsson plans to Rory Delap it into the box. But he doesn’t have his catapult-style ability. Portugal clear and Gunnarsson has a nibble at Nani out of frustration. And that is that.
41 min: Iceland need to have a rethink at half-time. This is reminiscent of Poland v Northern Ireland. It’s hard to see where an Iceland goal is going to come from because Iceland just can’t win the ball back. When they do they’re so knackered they can’t do anything with it.
40 min: “I don’t want to be the kind of person that roots for players to get injured but Pepe really tests my ability to remain a good person,” writes JR from Illinois. “Can’t somebody just ban him? I’ll bet if you added up suspension time that he has deserved for all the stuff he’s gotten away with he’d be looking at a 50-match ban at the least. Oh, and Ricardo Carvalho obviously isn’t as bad as Pepe because that would be impossible, but I still have no plans to forgive him (or any of his teammates or his manager) for the crimes against football that Porto committed in the 2003 UEFA Cup final.”
38 min: Portugal break with rapid pace. Nani hares down the right wing and lifts a cross into the box intended for Ronaldo, but it is Halldorsson’s huge palms that grasp the ball again to save Iceland. He’s been mostly dominant on crosses. Haven’t said that much about keepers at these Euros.
36 min: Sigurdsson’s corner is sent arrowing straight at Ronaldo’s head. He has magnetic super powers don’t you know?
35 min: Bjarnason gives the Iceland defence a breather by going on a little run up the left. His first cross is blocked but Iceland come back at Portugal with Bjarnason again. This time his cross is flicked out for a corner with Sigthorsson lurking at the back post. The corner’s poor, though. They need to make every set-piece pay. That is their most likely way to goal.
33 min: Portugal apply the pressure. They win a free-kick and then a series of corners. But Iceland’s defence stands strong. It will need to. Portugal can sniff blood here.
Goal! Portugal 1-0 Iceland (Nani 31)
Gomes plays a simple one-two on the right and is sent scuttling up towards the byline. He looks up and spies Nani running towards the near post and picks him out perfectly. Nani sidefoots home, first-time, to Halldorsson’s left. Iceland were caught napping on the left there. Nani finished well though. Can’t always be said of him.
28 min: Carvalho uses all 38 years of his footballing nous to halt an Iceland attack in slick fashion. Fine player. A wind-up merchant but in a more palatable way than others (yeah, I’m looking at you again Pepe).
26 min: I’m sure I just heard Iceland fans humming a Sigur Ros tune. Please make this true. Iceland fans, do you sing Bjork, Sigur Ros or Jonsi songs? That would be fantastic but I fear it’s my imagination.
25 min: Moments later Bjarnason, a little bundle of battle, gives away a free-kick 35 yards out towards the right touchline. Moutinho whips it in to … Halldorsson’s big and rather grateful gloves.
24 min: Pepe lofts a delightful ball 40 yards over the top to Ronaldo who, in the box and with only a clean connection to make to put Portugal 1-0 up, misses his kick. Oh Cristiano!
22 min: Moutinho swings a cross into Ronaldo from just outside the box. Ronaldo leaps highest and heads a yard wide. Lovely little ball from Moutinho though. Very inviting.
20 min: What a save by Halldorsson! It’s taken Ronaldo 20 minutes, but he finally finds his dancing shoes. He leads Skulassen one way, then with an explosion of sparkledust, takes him the the other before standing up a right-footed cross to Nani on the back post. His header, unmarked from five yards, clatters Halldorsson on the legs but the keeper did very well to spread himself. Wonderful reactions and great skill from Ronaldo.
19 min: Sigurdsson needs a little attention after having his toes trod on. Looked accidental to me so let’s not dwell on it. The referee certainly hasn’t.
17 min: A shot! Vieirinha wallops one from 25 yards after cutting inside from the left. It wafts around in the air like a balloon and Halldorsson does well to watch it on to his gloves as he punches clear. Action at least. Not much, but we’ll take it.
15 min: Carvalho catches Sigthorsson with his left boot after sliding in and making a tackle with his right. It was a mildly dirty bit of play that (although that is his currency after all). He lifted his boot to make contact with the Iceland striker. Sigthorsson gets up and doesn’t seem to be bothered by it.
14 min: “Iceland even have a striker called Siegthorson! ‘Siegtor’ is German for ‘winning goal’ How effing cool is Iceland?” whoops Nikolaj Nock, who may have had a few halves of mood-enhancer.
13 min: Pass. Pass. Pass. Moutinho and Danilo are starting to pull the strings in midfield. Portugal are steadily getting control of the game but they still haven’t created a real chance of note.
11 min: Ronaldo goes down after kicking his own foot 20 yards from goal. He gives the referee a wounded look. But I’ll repeat: he kicked his own foot. That’s Pepe-esque in its brazenness.
10 min: Iceland haven’t been particularly accurate in their passing but they’re winning the ball back off Portugal well enough.
9 min: Portugal have a neat spell of possession, Carvalho building nicely from the back. Moutinho flicks a pass out to Ronaldo after a nice little shimmy in midfield but it’s just too fast for Ronaldo, who can’t control it. That causes much mirth among the Icelandic hordes. Poor Cristiano.
7 min: This is feisty. Arnason gets involved in a bit of niggly stuff over by the touchline. He stands his ground as Moutinho tries to shunt him off the ball. So far, Iceland don’t look fazed.
6 min: Portugal respond well. Danilo tries to direct a header at goal. It rebounds off Arnasson’s head and goes out for a corner. Halldorsson collects comfortably. Nice start to the game this. More please.
4 min: Gylfi Sigurdsson is put through on the inside-left channel. He cuts inside Vieirinha and shapes to bend the ball around Patricio but tries to whip it in at the near post. But he doesn’t fool Patricio, who gets a strong hand to it. Sigurdsson picks up the rebound but can’t get any power on it and wafts it back into the keeper’s midriff. What a moment that could have been.
2 min: Nani has a little shuffle through the middle but he is outnumbered and Iceland see the ball comfortably back to their keeper Halldorsson. Another attack down the right comes to nothing and Iceland break.
1 min: Iceland, in ice white, get the match underway. Ronaldo is immediately shunted off the ball by the Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson. Oh, he doesn’t like that. Gunnarsson gets a glare. Game on!
“Now that’s a decent anthem, the Iceland one,” writes anthem reviewer Vina Paddy. “Not too up its own arse, a touch of introvert melancholy, and a promising outlook at the end for all her citizens. 7.8 for me.”
Now it is the turn of the Portugal players and fans to sing their anthem. Here’s one from four years ago. Slightly different cast. But you get the gist.
For the first time in a major tournament, this is played.And sung as loudly as any anthem so far at Euro 2016. Lovely stuff.
It’s almost time for kick off. Ronaldo, with hair so shiny it looks like a rubber cap that has been fitted to his head by a Hollywood makeup artist, leads Portugal out of the tunnel. He is wearing his all-business face. He probably practised that in the shower this morning.
And Aron Gunnarsson must be close to exploding with pride. It’s his job to lead out Iceland. What a moment this is for the Cardiff midfielder. Drink it in. The Iceland players applaud the fans as they arrive on to the turf.
Well this is a nice email. Kári Tulinius writes: “It’s a weird feeling for this Icelander to be waiting for the Icelandic national team to play in a major tournament. When I was a teenager, it was a running joke with friends of mine that one day we’d watch he national team play in the Euros or the World Cup. The best we could reasonably expect was the occasional nose-bloodying of an established power. Getting thumped by middle-ranked teams was the norm. Now we’re in the Euros. My head just wants the team to avoid humiliation, my heart is thinking about potential quarter-final matchups. The game can’t start quickly enough.” No, it can’t.
In case you were wondering where this match was taking place and wanted some interesting facts about said venue. Well here’s a handy video guide.
And here’s another:
“Like the Cincinnati Red Stockings who suffered their first loss in 130 games, on this day 14 June 1870, will Iceland’s long winning sequence of one win be brought to and end by Portugal, who are overwhelming favourites to win tonight, but who themselves have a current sequence of WLWWLWLWWWL. A draw will not be happening tonight.” Raymond Reardon sticks his neck out.
“Swedish TV just said that 2% of the Icelandic population is at the game tonight. Could that be right?” ponders Rolf Wilhelm. “Math was never my thing.” That would make it 6,000 fans but apparently there are 40,000 Iceland fans in St Etienne. That would put the figure at more like 15%. Which is pretty incredible. However, I think many of those may just be people who have Bjork’s breakthrough album, Debut.
Cristiano Ronaldo appears to have got the battle-fever on. He’s shaking his fist and encouraging the Portugal fans to make a racket in St-Etienne.
Yes exactly Dan – and not at all because he’s older than that Woolly Mammoth they dug up in Iceland some time ago.
Patrick Sullivan gets out his Big Map Of The World and writes: “Geographically, Iceland is split between the North American and European continents. So who in their right mind thought it prudent to line them up against the likes of Portugal? As a sporting fellow, I’d rather see them take on the Jamaican juggernauts in the Copa America.”
Away from tonight’s football, in Lille, where Russia play Slovakia tomorrow, there have been reports of minor scuffles between supporters there. Video footage shows some fans, believed to be Russia supporters, throwing a chair at a bar/restaurant where England and Wales fans had gathered together. Wales play England in nearby Lens on Thursday.
Portugal: Rui Patricio, Vieirinha, Carvalho, Pepe, Guerreiro, Joao Mario, Danilo Pereira, Andre Gomes, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Ronaldo. Subs: Lopes, Bruno Alves, Fonte, Eder, William Carvalho, Renato Sanches, Rafa, Eliseu, Quaresma, Cedric, Adrien Silva, Eduardo.
Iceland: Halldorsson, Saevarsson, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Arnason, Skulason, Gudmundsson, Gunnarsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Birkir Bjarnason, Sigthorsson, Bodvarsson. Subs: Kristinsson, Hauksson, Hermannsson, Ingason, Finnbogason, Sigurjonsson, Theodor Elmar Bjarnason, Magnusson, Hallfredsson, Traustason, Gudjohnsen, Jonsson.
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)
Evening. For such a small nation Iceland doesn’t half punch above its weight. It has meek-looking bands that make a big noise, loud jumpers, hard-hitting TV drama, banks that go under and take Europe with them and serene-looking volcanoes that can stop the world’s flights with one cough. Oh, and of course, they also have a handy football team these days. For how they became a handy football team you may want to read the piece below, it’s really very good.
Anyway, on to tonight’s match. Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal are, of course, huge favourites. But it’s not just about him. Or Him, if you like. They have quality – and personality (yes Pepe, we’re looking at you but that’s no cause to fall to the turf) – elsewhere in their team. With Ronaldo playing in more of a conventional centre-forward’s role, there is more of an onus on the midfield to be clever. João Moutinho, will be expected to play the role of chief creator. He’s had a frustrating season, hampered by injury in spells at Monaco, but much is still expected of him in France. And keep an eye on João Mário too. He’s a 23-year-old who has been described as a fake right midfielder which, I’m guessing doesn’t mean he’s actually a goalkeeper who has been kidding everyone for years but does mean he tends to drift inside a lot and pick little passes in behind defences. He plays at Sporting alongside William Carvalho, who is on the bench tonight.
And then there’s Pepe at centre-back, a one-man guarantee that supposed neutrals will never be neutral when watching Portugal play. Although Iceland’s manager, Lars Lagerback, believes Pepe may have a fan or two in California. “In the final of the Champions League against Atlético, we saw another performance from someone who could be in Hollywood. I mention Pepe. I mean, you can see the clips … for me, that is acting, really, of high class. But I don’t know what demands they have in Hollywood. I don’t like that. I’d like it if they were able to watch the videos to retrospectively punish that sort of thing.”
If Iceland are going to upset the odds, who is the player who will do it? Yes, Gylfi Sigurdsson is good value for a 25-yard rasper now and then. He outscored and outcreated Ronaldo in qualifying. He pretty much saved Swansea last season too, with nine very important goals in the second half of the season. But look out for Ragnar Sigurdsson, the big centre-back who plays for Krasnodar in Russia. He has the simple task of keeping Ronaldo quiet.
My prediction: Portugal 2-1 Iceland