By Scott Brotherton (Portugal) & Francisco Cardoso Pinto (Iceland)
Portugal (Scott Brotherton)
How will I watch it?
Well I’ll be rushing home from Birmingham to try and get in for the second half. There haven’t been many first half goals in the Euros thus far, so knowing my luck it’ll be about 4-2 at the break.
Players to watch
Of course you can’t look past the Real Madrid legend in the side. After winning the Champions League and ‘La Undecima’ with Madrid, he will be looking to add an unlikely international triumph this summer. But Pepe isn’t the only star in the side! I’m told that Portugal also have a talented forward who scored five times in qualifying. Yes, the nation’s hopes yet again rest on Cristiano Ronaldo. He is usually backed up by either Nani or Ricardo Quaresma up front and the pair have little defensive responsibility with plenty of license to roam around in a very flexible 4-4-2.
Much like Leicester in the Premier League this year, this formation relies on two very hard-working midfielders. The experienced Joao Moutinho is normally the more creative of the pair and should start despite an injury-hit season with Monaco. He could be joined by Sporting’s William Carvalho. The highly rated 24-year-old will have to perform the N’Golo Kante role for Fernando Santos‘ team – thankless running and winning the ball back to make up for the lack of an extra midfielder.
There could also be a changing of the guard for Portugal at Euro 2016 with a new crop of youngsters coming through. Players like Valencia’s Andre Gomes and Sporting’s Joao Mario could shine, while fans will also be looking out for Renato Sanches. The 18-year-old has just joined Bayern Munich from Benfica and could become a real superstar.
Prediction: Portugal 2 – 1 Iceland
I hope Portugal should have enough and that Fernandes’ side can get off to a winning start. Iceland shouldn’t be underestimated though and I think they will make it tough for Ronaldo and co.
Iceland (Francisco Cardoso Pinto)
How will I watch it?
My surname is Pinto – not Pintorsson – so do not expect too much rooting from me for the outstanding newcomers who shoved the Netherlands to the side before arriving in France. I will probably watch the game with some friends, here in Lisbon, where every single TV set will be tuned to the game and where, for two hours, tourists will have the city for themselves.
But even if my heart is with the opposing team, I still find myself curious to see this team upclose, and watch (hopefully not) how exactly a country of 320.000 people (the “Sons” as I like to call them) managed to have its team amongst the european elite (plus Albania).
It is not like Portugal is a football power – we’re not – but we’ve had our fair share of big tournaments, and we even managed to lose a final to Greece – yes, you read it right, Greece. So as a proud and unapologetic Portuguese I think I am allowed to look down (respectfully of course, but down) on a first timer and say: “Let’s see what you’ve got!”
Players to watch
There is a player I am particularly anxious to see. His name ends in “son” and he plays at… just kidding. To be completely honest, Lars Lagerback (is it me or it just doesn’t feel right to say his name without Soderberg’s alongside?) could pick the country’s president to be in goal and I would not only not notice it, but would probably applaud the shape Ólafur Grimsson was in.
Having said that there are two players I will watch closely. The inevitable Gylfi Sigurdsson, whose skills are well above the average player, and who did a fantastic job for my Premier League fantasy team this past season. So, Gylfi, you are definitely my “Son” but please – I repeat: PLEASE!! – be a good boy today or I will give Pepe a call…
The other player I am looking forward to see is the great Eidur. The 37 year old Gudjohnsen is back on the big stages, and for me, as a fan of him since he helped Mourinho win his first title in England, it will be a pleasure to watch him play again.
Prediction: Portugal 3 – 1 Iceland
Sorry “Sons” but it is not gonna happen… yet. I wish you the best of luck for the next two games, but this one will not end well for you. Ronaldo will score the inevitable goal, Gylfi will probably put his name in the scoresheet, but João Mário and Rafa will seal the deal. After all, Iceland has a 73 year old politician in the goal. It shouldn’t be too difficult to score.