Paris (AFP) – Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is looking to make amends for a poor performance and some unwise words when his side take on Austria at Euro 2016 on Saturday.
Ronaldo failed to shine in his opening Group F game, and after the 1-1 draw against Iceland he lambasted the North Atlantic minnows for their “small mentality” because of their defensive tactics.
Iceland’s defence froze out Ronaldo, who is looking for a goal that will make him the first to score in four European Championship tournaments.
The Real Madrid ace has been lambasted across the continent for his petulant outburst with Iceland’s Karni Arnason labelling him “not a gracious human being”.
Austria will need to attack after a side led by Bayern Munich’s David Alaba — highly rated after their stunning qualifying campaign — were shocked 2-0 by neighbours Hungary in their opening game.
Despite a forgiving format allowing 16 of the 24 teams to progress to the knockout stages, defeat for either side would leave them facing a possible embarrassing early exit.
“The group is relaxed, and despite the draw we still feel good,” said Portuguese teenager Renato Sanches, who will team up with Alaba at Bayern next season after sealing a move from Benfica.
– Hero Halldorsson –
“This only gives us motivation and desire because we know that every game will be more difficult now. So I think the group is quietly determined.”
Portugal dominated against Iceland, the smallest country ever to take part in a Euros with a population of just 330,000. Ronaldo had 10 of Portugal’s 24 shots on goal, but they were denied by an outstanding display from Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson.
“I think it was a good match in terms of what we did, we had several chances to score and a lot of possession. Obviously it wasn’t the result we wanted, but I think we played well,” added Sanches.
And the 18-year-old expects another physical encounter against the desperate Austrians.
“We are expecting to come up against a very aggressive team that wants to win, because if they lose this match they’ll be in a very difficult position. So we’re expecting to face a team playing with great intensity.”
To add to the Austrians’ woes, they will be without suspended defender Aleksandar Dragovic, while midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic’s tournament looks to be over after he suffered ankle ligament damage against the Hungarians.
Austria coach Marcel Koller believes his side froze under the favourites tag on their first major finals for eight years.
“Maybe some players were nervous because it was the beginning. We can’t just push a button and say ‘now I’m going to play at my best level’.
“The situation now is we’ll have to try and win against Portugal.”
Alaba was Austria’s one shining light in Bordeaux as he struck the post in the opening 30 seconds and looked a threat throughout.
However, Sanches insisted Portugal will have not just have to watch the versatile Bayern star alone.
“I think Alaba is a great player, and everyone is aware of that, but I don’t think we have a specific plan to stop Alaba.”
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