San Francisco Chronicle

Tiny Iceland advances


A late winning goal. A spot in the knockout stage. The prospect of playing in the round of 16 against England.

It just doesn’t get better for tiny Iceland.

Delivering the feel-good story of the European Championsh­ip, the smallest nation ever to compete at the tournament beat Austria 2-1 on Wednesday at St. Etienne, France, to advance from Group F.

And the reward from the greatest day in Iceland’s soccer history: a match against their heroes from England in Nice on Monday.

“Icelanders know everything about English football,” Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimss­on said. “We are English football crazy.”

Arnor Ingvi Traustason clinched the win for Iceland in the fourth minute of stoppage time, finishing off a counter-attack as the Austrians piled forward in search of the goal that would have earned them a place in the round of 16 at the expense of their opponents.

After bundling the ball into the net in the last play of the game, Traustason found himself buried under a heap of Iceland players, substitute­s and officials who had sprinted onto the field to celebrate. The whole squad then ran across the field to jump up and down in front of its jubilant fans.

“It’s like having your family at the game,” Iceland defender Kari Arnason said of the team’s 10,000 supporters. “I know probably 50 percent of our crowd, or recognize them.”

Iceland finished in second place in the group to Hungary, above Portugal — which also advanced — and unbeaten with five points. Austria was eliminated in last place. Portugal 3, Hungary 3: Cristiano Ronaldo finally delivered. Twice.

The Portugal winger erupted from his scoring slump, netting his first two goals at Euro 2016 and putting his team into the round of 16 with a draw in Lyon with Hungary, sending both teams through.

The goals came in the 50th and 62nd minutes, and they made Ronaldo the first player to score in four consecutiv­e Euros.

Before the game, Ronaldo responded to a seemingly harmless question by snatching the microphone off a TV reporter and apparently throwing it in a lake he and his Portugese teammates were walking beside. Ireland 1, Italy 0: Ireland advanced to the knockout stages of the European Championsh­ip for the first time. An 85th minute late goal from Robbie Brady in Lille was enough for the spirited Ireland side to secure a place in the round of 16 as one of the best third-place teams. Its reward: a match against France in Lyon on Sunday.

Italy, which already was assured of the top spot in Group E after two straight group wins, will meet defending champion Spain next. Belgium 1, Sweden 0: Zlatan Ibrahimovi­c, one of the biggest stars at Euro 2016, played his last game for Sweden, a loss that eliminated the Swedes. Belgium advanced to the round of 16, in which it will play Hungary on Sunday in Toulose.

Radja Nainggolan scored the winning goal for the Belgians, who finished second in Group E behind Italy.

 ?? Martin Meissner / Associated Press ?? Goal scorer Arnor Ingvi Traustason (21) and goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsso­n (1) lead the celebratio­n of Iceland’s historic moment.
Martin Meissner / Associated Press Goal scorer Arnor Ingvi Traustason (21) and goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsso­n (1) lead the celebratio­n of Iceland’s historic moment.

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