Euro 2016

Defensive Iceland 'didn't try anything'

Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo ruing one of his five missed attempts at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard in St Etienne. While he showed his disdain for his opponents' stupendous achievement on their tournament debut, his own side was to blame for a frust
Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo ruing one of his five missed attempts at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard in St Etienne. While he showed his disdain for his opponents' stupendous achievement on their tournament debut, his own side was to blame for a frustrating display. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Ron dismisses minnows, who secure shock draw to keep Portugal on ice, but fans roar

GROUP F

Portugal 1 Iceland 1


ST ETIENNE • Iceland produced another eruption on Tuesday.

The smallest country to qualify for the European Championship marked their tournament debut with a 1-1 result to savour against Portugal, although that and their memorable celebrations were not the only tremors felt in Saint-Etienne.

Portugal talisman Cristiano Ronaldo reacted to a restorative night for the game with all the petulance and pettiness of a spoilt child.

"Iceland didn't try anything," whined the captain, who equalled Luis Figo's record of 127 caps. "It's just defend, defend, defend and playing on the counter attack. It was a lucky night for them.

"We should have three points but we are okay. I thought they'd won the Euros the way they celebrated at the end. It was unbelievable.

"When they don't try to play and just defend, defend, defend, this in my opinion shows a small mentality and they are not going to do anything in the competition."

Iceland have already accomplished more than expected and were at one with their fans after the final whistle, while Ronaldo raged at the referee, after disdainfully shrugging off Aron Gunnarsson when the Iceland captain approached him for a shirt exchange at the end of the match.

THEY'RE JUST LUCKY

I thought they'd won the Euros the way they celebrated at the end. It was unbelievable. When they don't try to play and just defend, defend, defend, this in my opinion shows a small mentality and they are not going to do anything in the competition.

CRISTIANO RONALDO, on Iceland snatching a 1-1 draw against Portugal.

Even in a tiny nation's finest hour in football, Ronaldo demands the limelight and so it is gratifying the prima donna was partly responsible for Iceland producing a performance to remember.

The 31-year-old's glaring miss five minutes from time, heading Nani's cross straight at goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson, not only prevented the Real Madrid man making history as the first player to score in four consecutive Euros but also marked the moment the party started for Iceland.

The roar that emanated from those in blue behind Halldorsson's goal said it all. They knew. Iceland had arrived in style.

Portugal dominated but the glory belonged exclusively to the compact, belligerent and committed team of Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson. A truly stunning entry on to the international arena.

Iceland started brightly and never faltered after Nani swept Fernando Santos' team into the lead in the 31st minute. Birkir Bjarnason's leveller in the 50th minute ignited delirium among a vibrant Iceland following.

Ten per cent of the country's 330,000 population is expected in France and those at St Etienne were in fine form.

It helped that the team they had travelled to support showed they would not be overawed, intimidated or negative from the very start.

Veteran forward Eidur Gudjohnsen, 37, who was an unused substitute, said: "Drawing, for us, has been marvellous. Our performance was one of pride, character and, above all, hard work.

"I don't really care what Ronaldo has to say. He said we were lucky but you always need luck. Luck doesn't fall from the sky, you have to earn it."

It was a typically exasperating display from Portugal and enhanced their reputation for producing technically gifted players who do not quite live up to expectations at big tournaments.

Despite enjoying a whopping 72 per cent possession, they struggled to create openings and, crowded out, Ronaldo could not carry them through.

"You can't put one player down to stop a guy like Ronaldo. It has to be a team effort, closing the areas," said Hallgrimsson. "There were a lot of players responsible for Ronaldo tonight. We did a really good job."

Soundly neutralised, Portugal's players were left to promise an improvement in their next match against Austria on Saturday.

Said Ronaldo: "We have to take our chances, I'm confident that things will go better."

Substitute Ricardo Quaresma said: "It's not how you start, it's how you finish that matters."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline 'Defensive Iceland 'didn't try anything''. Print Edition | Subscribe