Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal was upstaged by a team of Icelanders and Hungary beat Austria on a day of surprises at the European Championship on Tuesday.
The smallest country ever to play at a European Championship, with its population of 330,000, Iceland made its major tournament debut in style with a 1-1 draw.
Having recently helped Real Madrid win the Champions League in Milan, Ronaldo lacked his usual accuracy in front of goal, miskicking a great chance in the first half with only Hannes Halldorsson to beat and then sending a powerful header straight at the Iceland goalkeeper from close range in the second.
Even his trademark free kicks came to nothing on a night he’d rather forget in Saint-Etienne.
“Iceland … just defend, defend, defend and play the counterattack,” Ronaldo said.
“They had two chances and they scored one goal. It was a lucky night for them.”
It fell to Nani to put Portugal ahead with a neat finish in the 31st minute, only for Birkir Bjarnason to level in the 50th on one of Iceland’s few attacks.
“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.”
Portugal coach Fernando Santos was left to rue the missed chances in a game that followed Hungary’s 2-0 victory over 10-man Austria in the other Group F match.
“We should have scored more goals, there is no secret about that,” Santos said.
“We are to blame for that.”
Aleksandar Dragovic was partly to blame for Austria’s defeat in Bordeaux after being shown a red card in the 66th minute.
At the time, his team was only trailing to Adam Szalai’s opening strike.
But Hungary substitute Zoltan Stieber added the second after a rapid counterattack in the 87th to put the result beyond doubt.
Victory over a team ranked 10 places higher by FIFA made it an even more special match for Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly, who set an age record by becoming the first 40-year-old player to feature at a European Championship.
“He contributed to this victory,” Hungary coach Bernd Storck said.
“He was rewarded for all of his hard work over the years.”
The second round of group matches starts Wednesday, with police in northern France braced for possible trouble after violence last week involving supporters from England and Russia in the southern city of Marseille.
Russia plays Slovakia in Lille, while England fans will be gathering in nearby Lens for their team’s Group B match the following day against Wales.
Police reinforcements have been sent in, and more than 2,500 security personnel including police officers and soldiers will fan out across Lille on Wednesday. More than 2,400, a combination of police and private security personnel, will be deployed in Lens, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) away.
On the pitch, the four Group A teams will be in action, with Switzerland bidding to become the first team to qualify for the knockout stages with a victory over Romania.
Host nation France, a 2-1 winner over Romania in the tournament opener, will also aim to qualify with a victory over Albania in the late match.