Euro 2016: Iceland hold Portugal to shock 1-1 draw thanks to Halldorsson's heroics
Portugal and Iceland played out a 1-1 draw in their opening UEFA Euro 2016 Group F encounter at the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne on Tuesday night. Nani had given Portugal the lead in the first half before Birkir Bjarnason equalised minutes into the second half. The Portuguese side had a number of chances in the second half but Iceland held firm to get a historic result.
Portugal: Patricio; Vieirinha, Pepe, Carvalho, Guerreiro, Danilo, Mario, Moutinho, Gomes, Nani, Ronaldo
Iceland: Halldorsson, Sævarsson, Arnason, R. Sigurdsson, Skulason, Gudmundsson, Gunnarsson, G. Sigurdsson, Bjarnason, Bodvarsson, Sigthorsson
The starting lineups produced two contrasting formations that allowed for an interesting game of tactical buildup for both sides. While Iceland settled into a traditional 4-4-2 with Bodvarsson and Sigthorsson leading the attack, Portugal played a 4-4-2 diamond with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani playing as forwards.
Portugal draw first blood
The first half saw Portugal dominate the game in terms of both possession, chances created and shots on goal. The only time Iceland looked close to scoring were in the first few minutes and final stages of the half.
Their earliest opportunity saw Gylfi Sigurdsson almost open the scoring on a counter-attack in the fourth minute. The Swansea City midfielder, arguably the star of this team, cut inside from the left to lose his marker before unleashing a shot on goal that saw Patricio block the effort. The ball fell back to Sigurdsson who managed to get a weak shot on goal which Patricio dealt with as well.
After that, it was all Portugal as they mounted one attack after another from all corners of the pitch. Ronaldo and Nani were proving to be a handful in the final third for the Icelandic defence. The two Portuguese forwards ensured the defenders’ heads were constantly on the swivel with their movement and energy.
Iceland goalkeeper Halldorsson was kept on his toes at all times and he made a fine save to deny Nani in the 20th minute of the half. Ronaldo, out on the left of the box, managed to put in a cross into the six-yard box for the Fenerbahçe winger who wheeled away from his marker to get free and head goalward. But the header was kept out by the foot of Halldorsson who made himself big in the hope of Nani directing his header straight at him.
Ronaldo also had a couple of chances on goal to set a new record of scoring in four editions of Euro. His first real attempt on goal saw him tower over Ragnar Sigurdsson and Arnason and direct his header goalward but only saw it miss the top left corner of the goal.
Another long ball from Pepe that beat the Iceland defence saw the Real Madrid forward get in an opportunistic position to score but his attempted half-volley saw him kick the air as his mistimed shot saw Halldorsson calmly collect the ball as he heaved a sigh of relief.
The Iberian side eventually got their lead just after the half-hour mark when Nani got on the scoresheet. Out on the right, Gomes and Vieirinha played a quick one-two before the Valencia midfielder managed to slide the ball in for Nani who scored from the edge of the six-yard box. It was also the 600th goal in Euro history.
Portugal seemed to relax after the goal and that allowed Iceland to play a bit of football of their own as they managed to advance up the field instead of allowing Portugal to dominate possession. They did try to find Sigthorsson up front but the Portuguese defence, led by the 38-year-old Ricardo Carvalho, managed to keep Iceland at bay till the half-time whistle.
Iceland equalise early in second half
Portugal seemed to have been warned by Fernando Santos that Iceland were not to be taken lightly as they came out in the second half and looked to double the lead early on. Ronaldo tried his luck from about 25 years out when he pounced on a poor clearance from Ragnar Sigurdsson but his shot went inches wide of the far post.
However, Iceland surprised the Seleccao with a goal of their own just five minutes into the second half. A lot of the credit had to go to Johann Gudmundsson who made a run down the right wing before launching a cross-field ball towards the far post. Both Pepe and Vieirinha were out of position and did not even realize that Birkir Bjarnason had been stealing into the box and the FC Basel midfielder’s calm volley beat Patricio with ease to make it 1-1.
Portugal were hurting and they poured forward in search of a second goal. Iceland really were pegged back for the majority of the half but Halldorsson stood firm whenever he was called into action, first keeping out a Gomes effort after which he ensured Nani did not double his tally when Vieirinha had sent in a teasing cross into the box.
Iceland hold on for a draw
Santos also brought on the highly rated Renato Sanches for Moutinho with 20 minutes to go while Mario made way for Ricardo Quaresma. The Besiktas winger was a doubt for this game and started on the bench and he almost had the perfect entrance when Sanches and Gomes set up the 32-year-old for a shot on the counter that took a deflection and almost catch Halldorsson off guard.
Ronaldo had one glorious chance to seal the win late in the game when Nani’s sublime cross whipped in from the right wing was directed straight at the Real Madrid forward. His header was strong and on target but, unfortunately, straight at Halldorsson who kept it out.
Three minutes of stoppage time seemed like an eternity for Iceland with Portugal awarded two free-kicks – both taken by Ronaldo. The first hit the wall leading to a handball and yellow card. The second one hit the wall as well and Iceland managed to hold on for a historic point in Euro as the referee blew the final whistle.