The major finals debutants kicked off with a memorable draw in Group F thanks to Birkir Bjarnason’s second-half leveller.
Iceland held Portugal to a 1-1 draw in their first ever major finals appearance, frustrating their illustrious opponents to claim a memorable opening point in UEFA EURO 2016 Group F.
Draw meant a whole lot to Iceland’s players. They are the smallest country to ever appear at a major tournament, with an official population of 323,002.
The final game of matchday one was a big occasion for both teams, but especially for Iceland, and the debutants began with a spring in their step, almost taking the lead in the third minute when Rui Patrício was forced to save from Gylfi Sigurdsson – and to repeat the feat from the rebound as Sigurdsson tried again.
Portugal’s qualities on the ball soon started to tell, however, and Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldórsson pulled out an incredible save with his legs as Nani headed goalwards from a Cristiano Ronaldo cross.
Nani puts Portugal in front with the 600th EURO finals goal.( Picture Courtesy -UEFA)
Winning a joint-record 127th cap for Portugal, the provider on that occasion then mistimed his swing at a Pepe pass from deep, but a goal was coming – and Nani delivered it just after the half-hour, turning in at the near post following slick interplay between André Gomes and Vieirinha. It was a landmark goal, the 600th in EURO finals history.
Bjarnason scored Iceland first goal at a major tournament..( Picture Courtesy -UEFA)
Game over? Far from it. Given spirited backing by their fans, Iceland levelled within five minutes of the restart, an unmarked Birkir Bjarnason left free to volley in from Johann Gudmundsson’s cross.
Portugal responded with the crisper passing and better chances, Nani flicking a header wide and Halldórsson denying Ronaldo, but Iceland were not about to let their efforts go unrewarded.
Man of the match: Nani
Portugal’s scorer had five attempts in addition to his goal. He put in four crosses and laid on two chances for team-mates, completing 23/26 of his passes. He is the eighth-highest winger in the Player Barometer.
The Fenerbahçe forward was only denied an even earlier goal by a remarkable save, though he did enough in his 97th appearance to show that opponents ignore him at their peril.
Report courtesy to UEFA Euro Release