Portugal have shrugged off their post-Iceland malaise and are ready to re-launch their Euro 2016 bid against Austria on Saturday, according to teenage midfielder Renato Sanches.
Nani broke the deadlock amid a confident first-half showing in Saint-Etienne but Iceland levelled after Birkir Bjarnason capitalised on some slack 50th-minute defending and Fernando Santos’ side laboured in search of a response.
Cristiano Ronaldo struggled to hide his frustration at the setback, with remarks over Iceland’s perceived “small mentality” bringing the Real Madrid star in for sustained post-match criticism.
Sanches, who completed a move from Benfica to Bayern Munich ahead of the tournament, took Ronaldo’s record as the youngest player to represent Portugal when he came off the bench for the last 20 minutes against Iceland.
The 18-year-old is confident Santos’ men will show their best form against similarly smarting opponents – Austria having been stunned 2-0 in their opening Group F fixture against neighbours Hungary.
— Dom Farrell (@DomFarrell1986) June 16, 2016
“The team did not feel very well in the first hours after the game because the objective was to win, but we are all prepared for the next game,” Sanches told a pre-match news conference.
“I think the draw did not affect anything, we are still focused on our goal. This result does not change anything, there are many games.
“We have had the opportunity to watch recordings of the game with Iceland. Everyone has seen the mistakes we made, these things happen in football. There is no perfection.
“Iceland had an opportunity in the second half and scored, then closed up slightly in defence, that’s football.”
Porto’s Danilo sustained a minor back injury during the Iceland match but the defensive midfielder took part in training with his Portugal team-mates on Thursday morning – one of a full complement of outfield players.
The news is not so rosy on the selection front for Austria boss Marcel Koller, with playmaker Zlatko Junuzovic laid low by an ankle injury that could force him out for the rest of the group stage.
Aleksandar Dragovic sits out through suspension after his red card versus Hungary, while his defensive colleague Martin Hinteregger has already identified a familiar threat chasing a goal in a fourth separate European Championship and his country’s all-time record of 128 caps next time out.
“Already we looked [at Ronaldo], we saw videos and we know that we cannot let him turn around and run towards us,” he told a news conference.
“He is very fast, we have to stop and not give room to pack.”
Midfielder Alessandro Schopf believes a more open contest could help Austria to get their campaign back on track.
“The way Portugal play is best for us,” he explained. “Hungary played more closed and made our lives difficult.
“[Portugal] have to score goals and will play offensively. The favouritism of Portugal does not tell me much because the underdogs have done well in this Euro.”
Key Opta stats
– Portugal are currently unbeaten in four matches against Austria (W1 D3). Their last meeting was back in October 1995 (1-1 in a European Championship qualifier), while Austria’s previous victory came in November 1979.
– Austria have never kept a clean sheet at the European Championships; conceding at least once each of their four games.
– Portugal had 26 shots in their opening game; the most of any nation across the first round Euro 2016 matches.
– None of Austria’s last 28 shots at the European Championships have found the back of the net.
– Cristiano Ronaldo has now had 34 direct free-kick shots in major tournaments for Portugal (World Cup and European Championships); he hasn’t scored with any of them.
– Ronaldo attempted 10 shots versus Iceland; four more than anybody else across the opening round of group games. However, only one of those efforts were on target.
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