The Portuguese open their Euro 2016 campaign with an interesting game against Iceland in Group F. Will Cristiano Ronaldo win his first piece of international silverware or can the Iceland fairytale continue?
Tom Kundert (Portugal) and Vidir Sigurdsson (Iceland) look ahead to the game.
What’s at stake here?
TK: Anything other than a win in their opener against Iceland will leave Portugal in a precarious position going into their second and theoretically toughest match against Austria in Paris on Saturday. A victory, however, and the Selecao will feel they are as good as in the knockout phase, with Hungary — many people’s pick as the weakest team in the competition — to come in their last match, and it would set them up nicely for the big clash against the Austrians in the French capital.
VS: This is the moment every Icelandic football fan has waited for since Sept. 6 2015, the day Iceland qualified for a major tournament for the very first time. From that day, the players have been gearing themselves up for this special occasion. Iceland go into this match as the underdogs where everything but a loss would be huge for the team. As Portugal are favourites to win the group and most people expect Iceland to fight with Hungary for third place, a draw would be a great result and raise the hopes of qualifying for the last 16.
TK: Iceland will surely be happy with a point on their tournament debut against the group favourites, so we are likely to see the islanders defend in numbers. Ricardo Quaresma has been the scourge of opposition goalkeepers lately and it will be fascinating to watch how Hannes Halldorsson deals with the extravagantly talented winger’s array of curling shots from all angles, and wicked crosses from either side of the pitch, more often than not using his extraordinary “trivela” technique, striking the ball with power and accuracy with the outside of his foot, making it extremely difficult for goalkeepers to read.
VS: The key battle will be between Ronaldo and the Icelandic defender that will have the responsibility of facing him in close battles throughout the match. Most likely the whole defence will be included in that battle but centre-back Kari Arnason is the man with the experience against Ronaldo having come up against him twice when Malmo FF played Real Madrid in the Champions League last winter. Ronaldo scored six goals in those two matches so veteran defender Arnason has learned a few things on how not to defend against him.
TK: As mentioned before, it would be no surprise if Iceland pack their defensive third of the pitch, meaning Portugal will have to be creative to find their way to goal. No player was more creative in the Portuguese Liga this season than Joao Mario. The Sporting midfielder’s silky skills and marvellous vision may well be needed. Don’t be surprised if one of Portugal’s golden boys, Ronaldo or Quaresma, grab the headlines with the winner … set up by that man Mario.
VS: Gylfi Sigurdsson is the Icelandic player most likely to create problems for the Portuguese defence. Not only with his constant running and passing in midfield, but also from the set-pieces where the Swansea player can be deadly. One of the best free kick specialists in the Premier league last season, Sigurdsson is sure to have a crack at goal if the opportunity arises, and his pinpoint corner kicks and free kicks often create havoc in the opponents’ penalty area. If Iceland can withstand the Portuguese pressure, his set-pieces could be very decisive factors in this match.
TK: Portugal 1-0 Iceland. A hard-fought encounter with Portugal’s extra class making the difference.
VS: 1-1 would be a great result for Iceland and a flying start for the team ahead of the anticipated battle with Hungary for the third place in the group.