Iceland coach says Portugal draw feels like a win
By Mark Trevelyan
ST ETIENNE, France (Reuters) - The scoreline may have been 1-1, but level-headed Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson was unable to prevent the word 'victory' passing his lips as the Nordic side held Portugal at Euro 2016 on Tuesday in their first appearance in the finals of a major tournament.
An early second-half goal from Birkir Bjarnason cancelled out Nani's first-half strike, and the Icelanders withstood long periods of intensive pressure to come away with the draw.
"Our defending was fantastic: we were really organised and worked really hard. Apart from one or two situations, we were really focused and it was a total team victory for us," Hallgrimsson told reporters.
A visibly frustrated Cristiano Ronaldo was effectively reined in by a disciplined joint effort from the Icelanders, with central defenders Kari Arnason and Ragnar Sigurdsson repeatedly cutting out crosses and hoofing the ball upfield.
"You can't ask one player to stop guys like Cristiano Ronaldo. It's unfair to put a player to mark him, so it has to be a team effort," Hallgrimsson said.
"There were a lot of players that were responsible for Ronaldo, and luckily he didn’t have many chances."
The team was cheered on by hordes of fans in blue team shirts, many of them wearing Viking horns. There were an estimated 7,000 Icelandic spectators at the St Etienne stadium, or more than 2 percent of the country's 330,000 population.
"The Iceland fans were fantastic, unbelievable, it was just like playing at home. When they got tired, the fans just cheered them on," Hallgrimsson said.
He said Iceland would take a confidence boost into their next game with Hungary in Marseille on Saturday, where a win would give them an excellent chance of making the tournament's last-16.
"It's really good to have a point. We can go a little bit more relaxed into the next game, but with a win against Hungary we are probably almost there."
(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Toby Davis)