“It was unbelievable,” Ronaldo added. “We tried hard to win the game and Iceland didn’t try anything. This, in my opinion, shows a small mentality and they are not going to do anything in the competition.”
Portugal went into halftime with a 1-0 lead, thanks to a Nani goal. But Iceland’s Birkir Bjarnason tied it in the 50th minute — moments after Ronaldo had missed an opportunity to give his team a two-goal lead — and the result held up, despite heavy pressure by the favored Portugese, who wound up with major edges in possession (66 percent) and shots (27-4).
“As everyone saw, Iceland just kicked the ball forward,” Ronaldo said (via Reuters). “After they scored the goal, they parked the bus and played anti-football. They didn’t want [to play].”
The comments from the three-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner drew the scorn of at least one Icelandic player, midfielder Kari Arnason. “[Ronaldo is] a fantastic footballer, but he’s not a gracious human being and the thing is we almost nicked the win, so him saying we weren’t going for the win contradicts that,” he said (via AFP).
“Obviously we’re not going to create as much chances as a fantastic team like Portugal, but his comments are the reason why [Lionel] Messi is always going to be one step ahead of him,” Arnason continued, tweaking Ronaldo by invoking the name of the Real Madrid star’s rival (and four-time player of the year) from Barcelona.
“It just makes it sweeter that he is a bad loser,” Arnason added (via the BBC). “We are a small island in the Atlantic Ocean and we got a draw against them.”
Iceland has a population of about 331,000, and 27,000 of those people bought tickets to Euro 2016 (per the Associated Press), meaning that more than eight percent of the country is heading to France to support the side. Iceland is the smallest nation to have qualified for a major international tournament, and the David-vs.-Goliath nature of its game against Portugal puts Ronaldo’s comments in an even worse light.
“It’s petty in a way. He’s a sore loser, obviously,” said former Iceland international star Hermann Hreidarsson, adding, “He thought he could have goals handed to him on a plate. If he would have worked as hard as every Icelandic player, he wouldn’t have had to say anything because I’m sure he would have got his rewards.”
Perhaps the line of the day came from Paul Doyle of The Guardian, who wrote, “We’d recommend Ronaldo take a long hard look at himself in the mirror if we didn’t know that he already spends several hours a day doing exactly that.”
Ronaldo’s displeasure at the upstarts from the North Atlantic wasn’t just limited to his words. As players from both sides left the pitch, he also brushed off a request from Iceland’s captain, Aron Gunnarsson, to perform a traditional exchange of jerseys.
Ronaldo’s elite skill and striking looks have attracted millions of admirers, but perhaps he is the most prominent member of his own fan club. After all, this is a man who has sent his personal hairstylist to make sure his statue at the Madrid Wax Museum is well coiffed, and in December, he said, “I was born to be the best.”
Presumably, “CR7” was not talking about being “the best” at offering gracious words for opponents who proved surprisingly tough.