We love to back an underdog in Britain. We’re famous for it. That’s why I was rooting for Iceland in their Group F game against Portugal.
How I wished that Gylffi Sigurdsson had fired beyond Rui Patricio instead of drilling into the keeper’s gloves with that massive early chance – if only to see the comedy cartoon look of bemusement on Cristiano Ronaldo’s plucked and perfectly groomed face. Oh, how we would have laughed.
So last night I was a Viking; bearded, shirt off, knocking back cold Skol on the sofa. Forget Wales and Northern Ireland, hearing the Icelanders belt out their national anthem (even if it’s a bit Songs of Praise) and seeing the look of pride on their faces is what the tournament is all about for me; the smaller nations getting a crack at the so-called elite. If I had a horned helmet, I’d have stuck that on, too.
The performance wasn’t great but who cares? Giant-killing acts aren’t all about playing the other side off the park, but unsettling them and digging deep into your own reserves of mental and physical strength. Go on, son.
But which one?
Twitter got itself in a bit of a flap over the fact that the entire Icelandic squad’s surnames ended in –son, with the exception of Eidur Gudjohnsen.
— Ben Wilson (@bennyboykevin) June 14, 2016
So when Bjarnason swept in the leveller to cancel out Nani’s poked first half opener, it wasn’t just the few people left on the tiny island famous for the northern lights, geysers, black sands and volcanoes that erupted – but all over the continent. Because nothing is more fun than seeing mega-stars humbled.
— Luxbet (@luxbet) 15 June 2016
Ronaldo had a couple of headers saved and tried to laugh it off at the end but the evening in wasn’t about him. It wasn’t about huge wages, flash motors and commercial contract deals, agents and bonuses. It was about a team making their first appearance at a major tournament finals and digging out a result that will stick long in the memory.
The night that Iceland put the Portuguese on a long-ship and sent them out to sea.