Ronaldo’s Portugal, Belgium looking for spark


Paris: Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal will attempt to reignite their flagging Euro 2016 campaign against Austria on Saturday, while Belgium hope to breathe life into their title bid after a terrible start.

Ronaldo was frustrated in his quest to become the first player to score in four European Championships as Portugal stuttered to a 1-1 draw with Iceland in their Group F opener.

The three-time World Player of the Year was then widely ridiculed for describing Iceland — a country with a population of just 330,000 — as having a “small mentality” after Portugal struggled to break down the Nordic island nation.

But Ronaldo will look to do the talking with his feet at the Parc des Princes this weekend in a crucial encounter with Austria.

“We didn’t get what we wanted against Iceland, but now we’re focused on tomorrow,” said goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

“Our confidence has not been shattered, we know the kind of quality we can put on the pitch and we’ll do everything to win.”

Tournament dark horses Austria arrive in Paris under heavy pressure after a shock 2-0 defeat to Hungary in their first match left them in danger of an early exit.

Marcel Koller’s side charged through qualifying, dropping just two points, but a second successive loss would all but spell the end for the likes of David Alaba and Marko Arnautovic.

The Austrians will also be without centre-back Aleksandar Dragovic against Portugal following his red card against Hungary, while Zlatko Junuzovic’s tournament looks to be over after he suffered ankle ligament damage.

– Belgium seek response -Belgium, ranked second in the world behind Argentina, came unstuck against unfancied but experienced Group E rivals Italy as the 2012 finalists claimed an impressive 2-0 victory to hit back at their detractors.

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots is expected to ring the changes for Saturday’s game against the Republic of Ireland in Bordeaux.

Premier League stars Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku could drop to the bench for their second group game after Wilmots said goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was the only player not at risk of being axed.

“We have to win our next two games now to make the knockout stages and that is what we’ll try to do,” added Wilmots.


Ireland boss Martin O’Neill has been forced into at least one change with striker Jon Walters ruled out with a lingering achilles problem, leaving James McClean in contention to start.

The Irish drew their first game 1-1 with Sweden, a result that favoured neither side, but O’Neill believes their performance at the Stade de France can serve as a springboard.

“I think from the way the team played (on Monday) they will draw great strength from that,” said O’Neill.

After marking their return to the big stage in style following a 30-year absence, Hungary can punch their ticket to the last 16 with victory over Iceland in Marseille.

“Expectations are high after the win, now everyone thinks that it will go like that, but that’s not how it goes. Nothing has changed because of the win, we have to forget about it and get back down to earth,” said Hungary coach Bernd Storck.

Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson sent out a similar message to his team-mates, calling on them not to get carried away after their Portugal heroics.

“We can’t afford to have our heads in the clouds after this result, we have to get our feet back on the ground and think of Hungary,” he said.