Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium recorded their first win at Euro 2016 and damaged the Republic of Ireland’s chances of reaching the last 16. After a goalless opening half, Lukaku scored the Belgians’ first goal at the tournament with a neat finish from the edge of the area. Axel Witsel headed in a second in the 61st minute, before Lukaku sidefooted home after a quick counter. The Republic did not force goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois into a single save. It means Martin O’Neill’s side, who are bottom of their section with one point, will probably have to beat Italy in their final Group E game on Wednesday. Belgium, meanwhile, are second on three points and next face Sweden.
It was a disappointing performance from the Republic after a promising display in their opening fixture, when they drew 1-1 with Sweden. Shane Long, operating as a sole striker, found himself isolated for long periods but may feel he should have won a penalty when he was caught by a wild Toby Alderweireld boot inside the Belgium area, just before Lukaku opened the scoring. Belgium boast a wealth of individual talent and had topped the Fifa rankings within the last year, making them one of the favourites to go far in France. However, they looked nothing like a team capable of winning the tournament against Italy, against whom they lost 2-0 on Monday. The Belgians lacked fluidity and a sense of unity. As goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois put it: Tactically, technically and organisationally, they came up short. It was a different story against the Republic.
Birkir Saevarsson’s late own goal denied Iceland a famous victory as Hungary edged towards the last 16 of the European Championship with a draw. Gyfli Sigurdsson gave Iceland the lead in the first half when he converted a penalty after a foul. Hungary dominated possession from then on but found themselves repeatedly frustrated by the Iceland defence. However, Saevarsson turned Nemanja Nikolic’s cross into his own net to hand Hungary a point. The result means the Hungarians are top of Group F with four points and can clinch first place with victory against Portugal in their final group game on Wednesday. The point for Iceland means they are second in the group and remain in the hunt for a place in the last 16, but it will feel like a defeat after they frustrated Hungary for so long.
They had won plenty of new fans by holding Portugal to a 1-1 draw in their first game on Tuesday, a result that prompted some scathing comments from Cristiano Ronaldo, who descried the Icelanders as having “a small mentality” and playing only to defend. Iceland, though, are simply playing to their strengths. They conceded only six goals in 10 games during qualifying, earning wins by making the most of limited opportunities. On Saturday, the Hungarians found themselves continually frustrated by a well-organised and disciplined backline and their task got harder six minutes before half-time. Veteran goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly fumbled a cross, Gunnarsson was sent to the ground by Kadar inside the area and Sigurdsson kept his cool to send Kiraly the wrong way from the spot. From then on, it was all Hungary but it looked as if Iceland’s defence would triumph again until Saevarsson, under pressure from Hungary substitute Daniel Bode, poked beyond his own goalkeeper. It continued a run of late drama at Euro 2016, with Saevarsson’s unfortunate goal the 13th to come after 85 minutes.
Cristiano Ronaldo missed a second-half penalty on the night he became his country’s record appearance holder as a hugely frustrating match for Portugal and their captain in Paris ended goalless to leave Group F wide open. Ronaldo struck the base of the post with his spot kick after Austria defender Martin Hinteregger had wrestled him to the ground and later headed home only to be denied by the offside flag. But huge credit for Austria’s point must go to keeper Robert Almer, who made a string of sensational saves. He stopped a crisp low strike and a header from Ronaldo as well as blocking from Nani, who struck the post with a first-half header as Portugal looked to pick up their first win of the competition.
Portugal dominated large swathes of the first competitive meeting between the sides since 1995 but were almost caught out several times, in particular when Stefan Ilsanker forced a good save with a crisp low strike shortly after the restart. The result means that Hungary top Group F with four points, Portugal and Iceland both have two and Austria one – a situation which leaves all four in with a shout of reaching the last 16. It might have been a record-breaking night for Ronaldo, who was making his 128th appearance for Portugal, but he can’t have endured few more frustrating ones since making his debut against Kazakhstan in 2003. With Luis Figo, the man whose record he eclipsed, watching in the stands the scene was set for the 31-year-old to steal the headlines with his penalty but after sending Almer the wrong way he drilled his effort into the base of the post. Ronaldo had become something of a pantomime villain after criticising Iceland’s “small mentality” following their 1-1 draw in their opening match.