A goal from Birkir Bjarnason earned Iceland a shock 1-1 draw with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal yesterday at Saint-Etienne, France in the European Championship, the tiny Scandinavian nation’s first ever match at a major tournament.
Iceland, which managed only four shots to Portugal’s 25, was second best most of the Group F game and trailed to a first half strike by Nani.
But its players showed resilience throughout, and took advantage of Portugal’s profligacy in front of goal. Bjarnason slotted home the equalizer in the 50th minute with a curled volley at the far post against the run of the play, moments after Ronaldo missed a chance to make it 2-0 when he shot wide.
“We should have scored more goals, there is no secret about that,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “We are to blame for that. Then there was this move. We knew they could play long balls and that they had good crossers. They were very pragmatic.”
With a population of 330,000, Iceland is the smallest nation ever to play at a European Championship. It defied the odds to reach the tournament by finishing second in its qualifying group behind the Czech Republic and above Turkey and the Netherlands, defeating the Dutch twice.
“So many things are happening for the first time to Iceland,” the team’s co-coach Heimir Hallgrimsson said. “This is another first-time achievement. It was fantastic to play here. It was like playing at home, the fans were fantastic.”
Hungary 2, Austria 0. Hungarian goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly set an age record at the European tournament yesterday and helped his team beat Austria with several good stops. Kiraly wast he first 40-year-old player to participate in the continental championship. Adam Szalai gave Hungary the lead at Stade de Bordeaux with his first goal in 12 appearances. Substitute Zoltan Stieber added the other after Austria was reduced to 10 men when Aleksandar Dragovic was shown a second yellow card.
Austria was favored and was an outsider for the tournament title after going through qualification unbeaten and finishing at the top of its group, eight points above Russia.