Goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson labelled Cristiano Ronaldo “disrespectful” and joint coach Lars Lagerback told the Portugal captain that his team and other heavyweights must “play better if they want to beat Iceland”.
Ronaldo accused the Scandinavian side of having a “small mentality” after they earned an unexpected 1-1 draw in Euro 2016 on Tuesday, the relative minnows avoiding defeat in what was their first match at a major tournament.
The Real Madrid star’s comments were condemned by Halldorsson, who pulled off several good saves to deny the Group F favourites in Saint-Etienne.
“I think that’s a bit disrespectful to what we have done as a team and our achievement of being at the Euros,” he said when told of Ronaldo’s assessment.
“You need to be a good team to get a point against a team like Portugal, who have been at [the finals of] tournaments year after year and have many millions [of potential players] to choose from.
“I guess he’s just irritated because he didn’t win against Iceland, who are only 330,000 [people].”
Halldorsson made no apologies for his team’s uncompromising approach, heralding their organised, hard-working game as the secret to succeeding against the odds in international football.
“We proved tonight what we already knew – that we can get results against any team when we have our day,” he said.
“That’s just our way of doing it, even though it irritates Cristiano Ronaldo.
“It’s good defending and taking the chances we get. We do that very well. And by doing that well we can get results against much bigger nations than ours. The sky is the limit.”
Former Sweden coach Lagerback was not surprised to hear of Ronaldo’s uncharitable response to Iceland’s hard-earned point.
“That’s like it is in football,” said the 67-year-old, who will retire after Euro 2016, leaving Heimir Hallgrimsson in sole charge.
“You can choose to play the football you like. It’s very common among players and coaches that if they are expecting to win, they always blame the opponent.
“They have to play better if they want to beat Iceland, simple as that for me.”
The only Iceland player able to sympathise with Ronaldo was former Chelsea and Barcelona star Eidur Gudjohnsen, who has met his fair share of frustrating opponents during a lengthy career at the highest level.
But even the 37-year-old veteran could not resist a wry smile when he learned of the former Manchester United player’s displeasure.
“It’s not easy when you don’t get everything your own way,” he grinned.
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