Euro 2016: Tiny Iceland Shocked Portugal, Forced a Draw


Paris: Such is the size of Iceland’s population, it was estimated that one in every 33rd Icelandic person was inside the Stade Geoffroy Guichard supporting their team against Portugal.

And for those present, just shy of 10,000, it was a night they will surely remember for a lifetime.

As recently as four years ago, Iceland was ranked 133rd in the world but it now sits inside the top 35.

Faced with the daunting prospect of overcoming a team full of household names, including three-time World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, it recorded an historic point in its first ever appearance at a major international tournament.

But Iceland has overcome the odds to even reach this stage; with its outdoor pitches being unplayable for the majority of the year and with a population the same size as Leicester — less than 330,000.

Far from being overawed by the occasion, the minnows came out fighting. With the game less than three minutes old, Iceland almost took a surprise lead.

Gylfi Sigurdsson’s subtle feint took him past veteran defender Ricardo Carvalho, but the Swansea star tried to beat Rui Patricio at his near post and only contrived to shoot straight at the Portugal keeper.

But it didn’t take long for Ronaldo and co. to exert their dominance on the match. First,

Vieirinha’s swerving strike stung the hands of Iceland keeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson, before Nani and Ronaldo both fluffed gilt-edged chances.

However, just after the half hour mark, Portugal finally took the lead. A wonderful, flowing move culminated in Andre Gomes squaring the ball for Nani to calmly divert past Halldorsson.

Portugal then started the second half as they ended the first and Ronaldo’s half-volley had Halldorsson scampering across his goal.

But then, five minutes into the second half, Iceland began re-writing the script.

Portugal’s makeshift full-back Vieirinha was caught out of position and Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s pinpoint cross was expertly swept home by Birkir Bjarnason.

In truth, either side could have stolen the three points. Ronaldo was guilty of heading straight at Halldorsson when free inside the six-yard box, before Iceland substitute Alfred Finnbogason saw his shot saved by Rui Patricio.

Portugal dominated throughout the three minutes of additional time but Iceland held on for a point that will surely go down in Nordic folklore.