Portugal made it ten straight wins in the 2024 European Championship qualifiers after a 2-0 victory against Iceland at Estádio José Alvalade.
The Seleção exerted their superiority early on and deservedly took the lead in the 37th minute when Bruno Fernandes drilled a low drive into the net from distance
Ricardo Horta came off the bench to double the advantage in the 66th minute, poking home from close range after João Félix and Cristiano Ronaldo saw their shots saved.
Iceland went close to a consolation goal in added time when Arnor Traustason’s deflected shot hit the bar, but it was too little too late for the Vikings who were largely outclassed from start to finish.
Roberto Martínez’s side became the first Portugal side to win every match in a qualifying phase for a major tournament, the two goals conceded another milestone alongside the record breaking 9-0 victory against Luxembourg.
Chances at both ends
Portugal began on the front foot in Lisbon with Ronaldo heading João Mário’s cross over the bar and João Félix firing straight at Hakon Valdimarsson.
The visitors proved that they possessed attacking weapons when Arnor Sigurdsson beat João Mário and surged into the box, the midfielder shooting straight at Diogo Costa.
João Cancelo instigated a free-flowing passage of play which resulted in Otávio’s cross hitting the bar, but Iceland responded at the other end once more.
It was Sigurdsson again, the midfielder playing a neat 1-2 with Alfred Finnbogason before shooting wide. The opportunity signaled the start of a brief spell of pressure which was soon nullified, Portugal regaining control and creating chances.
Portugal take control
João Félix forced a corner at the back post, Ronaldo headed Bruno Fernandes’ cross straight at Valdimarsson and Gonçalo Inácio headed Fernandes’ free kick wide.
Fernandes’ volley was blocked but the playmaker couldn’t be contained much longer and opened the scoring in the 37th minute. It was a trademark goal after receiving a pass from Bernardo Silva, taking his time and drilling a low shot into the far corner.
The Seleção ended the first half strong, Rúben Dias getting forward and forcing a save from Valdimarsson before Ronaldo fired wide from distance.
Age Hareide made a change at the break as Alfred Finnbogason made way for Orri Oskarsson.
The second half began as the first ended, Portugal dominating the game with Fernandes unable to steer his shot on target and Ronaldo heading another Mário cross at Valdimarsson.
Bernardo Silva went close before Roberto Martínez made his first substitutions in the 62nd minute, Mário and Silva making way for Raphaël Guerreiro and Ricardo Horta.
Horta seals the deal
Four minutes later Portugal doubled their advantage. Félix’s low drive was spilled by Valdimarsson, Ronaldo’s second chance attempt diverted straight to Horta who tapped the ball into an empty net.
Otávio made way for Vitinha in the 75th minute as Portugal appeared to lose focus, some uncharacteristically poor passing inviting pressure which was soon rectified with players getting back in numbers.
Martínez introduced João Neves and Bruma for Cancelo and Félix late on, Iceland going close in added time when Costa denied Oskarsson and Arnor Traustason’s deflected shot rattled the bar.
Optimism ahead of Euro 2024
Portuguese football supporters couldn’t have asked for a better qualification campaign. Roberto Martínez’s side created history by winning every match, conceding just two goals and recording their biggest win in the 9-0 victory against Luxembourg.
There were some moments where they were below their best including the first half in the 3-0 win against Bosnia-Herzegovina, the late 1-0 win in Iceland and the two goals conceded in the 3-2 win against Slovakia.
The emergence and development of António Silva and Gonçalo Inácio has been sensational. Martínez has faced difficulties at left-back with Raphaël Guerreiro and Nuno Mendes spending a significant amount of time on the treatment table, but João Cancelo is starting to thrive under the new manager which is a big bonus.
It was evident in the opening two matches that Bruno Fernandes has become indispensable. He was the only player to feature in all ten victories, registering six goals, seven assists and was involved in many interactions that resulted in a goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo ended the campaign with ten goals including the vital goal that secured victory in Iceland. The 38-year-old will continue to divide opinion and some will question why he played all 90 minutes in Lisbon, but you simply can’t argue with 128 international goals.
Martínez has given game time to 31 players and handed debuts to José Sá, Toti Gomes, João Mário and João Neves. The wealth of talent at his disposal is immense, but managing it is no easy task.
Expecting the Seleção to be at their optimum level during every match is simply unrealistic, especially with the multitude of formations and personnel that Martínez used throughout the campaign. What he learned from experimentation will be invaluable as he targets success at Euro 2024.
By Matthew Marshall at Estádio José Alvalade
Portugal: Diogo Costa - João Cancelo (João Neves 87’), Rúben Dias, Gonçalo Inácio, João Mário (Raphaël Guerreiro 63’) - Bruno Fernandes, João Palhinha, Otávio (Vitinha 75’) - Bernardo Silva (Ricardo Horta 62’), Cristiano Ronaldo, João Félix (Bruma 87’)
Iceland: H. Valdimarsson - G. Thorarinsson, V. Palsson, S. Ingason , H. Hermannsson, J. Gudmundsson, A. Sigurdsson, I. Bergmann Johannesson (A. Traustason 62’), A. Finnbogason (O. Oskarsson 46’), J. Thorsteinsson (A. Gudjohnsen 62’), W. Willumsson (M. Ellertsson 62’)
[1-0] Bruno Fernandes, 37’
[2-0] Ricardo Horta, 66’