The Nordic book of legends will have to be re-written to include this David and Goliath style heroic story, which Icelanders will certainly remember for a long time to come.
At yesterday’s face-off between Portugal and Iceland, the team of the tiny nation, which was playing its debut game at an international tournament, managed to draw 1-1 against formidable opponents led by none other than the three-time Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo. Incidentally, another cause for gloating for the Icelanders will be that the world’s greatest footballer failed to score against them.
Right from the start of the game, the underdogs came out snarling, with 67% possession in the first half. Portugal fought back in true form and Luis Nani scored a superb goal in excellent co-ordination with Andre Gomes, but that was the only point they would get in the game, despite a team packed with footballers who are almost household names.
With roaring Icelandic fans egging him on, midfielder Birkir Bjarnason came back with a stunning equalizer in the 50th minute, after which the Portuguese seemed to have lost the plot, running out of ideas on how to tackle their opponents. The match didn’t end with a win for either side, but for Icelanders, it was as good as a victory.
In the past four years, Iceland has climbed up the world football ladder of success in a remarkable way, limbering up from 133rd to taking a place among the top 35 teams. Notching up the historic point against Portugal yesterday will be a proud chapter in the sports-history books of the nation.