News ID: 153503
Published: 0246 GMT June 19, 2016

Portugal rues, Hungary hails draw; ‘Red Devils’ finally live up to expectations

Portugal rues, Hungary hails draw; ‘Red Devils’ finally live up to expectations

Belgium breezed past the Republic of Ireland 3-0 in its second group stage match on Saturday to prove that it deserves its second position in FIFA world ranking, while, Iceland and Portugal both failed to snatch their first wins against Hungary and Austria, respectively.

Belgium recorded its first points of Euro 2016 with a comfortable victory over the Republic of Ireland, courtesy of Romelu Lukaku's brace and Axel Witsel's pinpoint header.

Ranked No. 2 in the world by FIFA and backed by many to go on and win the tournament, Marc Wilmots' side flattered to deceive in its opener against Italy, putting in a limp display on its way to a 2-0 defeat, CNN reported.

Ireland, conversely, went into the game in relatively high spirits. A positive display against Sweden was only lacking the luck of the Irish, as Ciaran Clark's unfortunate own goal denied them all three points.

In the opening 45 minutes, it looked as though Belgium would once against disappoint, with pressure growing on Wilmots should he arguably continue to not make the most of this ‘golden generation’ of players.

However, two minutes into the second half the team's quality eventually told.

It was a controversial opener, with Ireland feeling aggrieved not to have been given a penalty for a high foot on Shane Long.

In the blink of an eye, while several Irish players were still remonstrating with referee Cüneyt Çakir, Belgium counterattacked through Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City star's piercing run bypassed the entire opposition midfield, before setting up Lukaku who curled the ball brilliantly past Darren Randolph's despairing dive.

While Ireland still posed a threat, the Belgians began to exert their dominance on proceedings and doubled their lead just after the hour mark.

Patient play around the edge of the Ireland box culminated in Thomas Meunier crossing into the box, with Witsel running onto the ball and powering a header into the bottom corner.

Not long after it was game over, Eden Hazard this time leading another blistering counterattack, bypassed Clarke's lunge on the halfway line and eventually squared for Lukaku to tap home for his second goal.

Saying that the Belgium squad was full of ‘big personalities’, Lukaku told ITV that the team was now on the ‘same page’ after Saturday's win.

Given Belgium's ranking — only Argentina is above them — and the ludicrously talented group of players at his disposal, Wilmots will look to maintain the momentum gained from this win in the final group game against Sweden.

Belgium's victory in Bordeaux ensures Italy goes through as Group E winner, with the Republic of Ireland needing a win against Antonio Conte's side to have any chance of reaching the last 16.

 

Ronaldo to blame

 

Cristiano Ronaldo endured arguably the worst night of his career, as a missed penalty cost Portugal the chance to earn three valuable points.

The three-time World Player of the Year squandered a host of good chances, leaving his country without a win and on the brink of being eliminated from Euro 2016.

Austria, which was so disappointing in defeat against Hungary, started the game brightly and should have taken the lead inside three minutes.

Marcel Sabitzer curled a wonderful ball into the six-yard box, but Martin Harnik could not quite climb high enough to nod the ball home, watching in despair as it flicked off his forehead and floated wide.

From then on, it was all Portugal. Led by an attacking trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Ricardo Quaresma, wave after wave of red shirts descended on the Austrian goal but were unable to make a breakthrough.

Nani drew a brilliant, diving save from Robert Almer in the Austria goal, before a short corner routine ended with the former Manchester United man crashing a header of the post.

The two best chances of the half fell to Ronaldo, a swift team move culminating in Nani squaring the ball for the Real Madrid star, but he could only guide his side-foot finish wide of the post.

Moments later, Quaresma headed his own deflected shot into Ronaldo's path but his effort was lacking enough power to trouble Almer.

The broad smile on his face gradually started to fade.

With 10 minutes remaining, Ronaldo's moment of redemption arrived. After being blatantly hauled down in the box by Martin Hinteregger, he picked himself up and planted his feet wide in that trademark stance.

He stepped up and could only watch in bemusement as he drilled his penalty off the bottom of the post.

It was just one of those nights.

Then, as if to rub salt into the wounds, the Portugal captain wheeled away in celebration after heading Nani's free kick past Almer, only to be met with the sight of the linesman's flag raised for offside.

On a night that should have been of celebration — Ronaldo overtook Luis Figo as the most-capped Portugal player in history — one of the great underachievers in European football is now staring Euro 2016 elimination in the face.

 

Last-minute OG

 

Everything Iceland does at Euro 2016, on the other hand, writes a new page in the country's history books.

Just by qualifying it made history. Birkir Bjarnason's goal against Portugal made history. The point gained from the draw against Portugal made history.

However, it was denied the chance of a first international competition win by an unfortunate last-minute own goal — an own goal that looks set to send Hungary through to the last 16.

After an impressive victory over Austria — considered by many dark horses for this tournament — the Hungarians could have been forgiven for thinking that overcoming Iceland, and qualifying for the last 16, was a considerably simpler task.

In an even first half, both sides' lack of quality in the final third was evident and, for all their enthusiasm, neither was able to create any clear-cut opportunities.

Eventually, it was a goalkeeping blunder and controversial refereeing decision that broke the deadlock.

Hungary's eccentric veteran goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly — seen producing no-look throws and rolling the ball between his legs — seemed to have a corner under control, but spilled the ball at Aron Gunnarsson's feet.

The Cardiff City midfielder took a touch around Hungary defender Tamas Kadar and went to ground, prompting referee Sergei Karasev to point to the penalty spot.

Premier League star Gylfi Sigurdsson stepped up confidently and rolled the ball into the corner, sending Kiraly the wrong way.

Iceland had 45 minutes to hold on for the win.

The islanders irked Cristiano Ronaldo in its first game, defending valiantly to hold on for a draw after scoring an equalizer early in the second half.

"Iceland only tried to defend... they had two chances and then did not try to score," the Real Madrid man said after the game.

They celebrated like they had won the Euro cup or something, that's a small mentality. That's why they'll do nothing."

Unfortunately, Iceland wasn't able to reproduce its defensive heroics again.

With just two minutes of regulation time remaining, Birkir Saevarsson slid into the six-yard box to try and prevent Adam Szalai from scoring but inadvertently put the ball into his own net.

Iceland was heartbroken, but almost stole the win in the final seconds of stoppage time.

Sigurdsson's free kick hit the wall and fell into the path of veteran striker Eidur Gudjohnsen — but there was to be no fairytale ending, his shot hitting Kadar's heel and spinning past the post.

With an underwhelming Austria team to play next, Iceland can be confident of writing yet more history.

Hungary plays Portugal in the group's final game, although are all-but assured of a place in the last 16.

   
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