The Cristiano Ronaldo party begins on Tuesday as Portugal make their Euro 2016 bow with a match against Iceland, who are playing their first ever major tournament. While Portugal are the favourites for this Group F match, considering the impressive manner of Iceland's qualification, an upset is certainly possible.
Much of Portugal's fortunes depend on their superstar. If Ronaldo hits his straps from the beginning, Portugal will believe they can top this group and with it hope to get an easier last 16 opponent. However, considering Austria, who play Hungary earlier on Tuesday, are also a part of this group, it is not going to be apple pie easy as far as qualification is concerned.
Iceland are a unit who know exactly what to do on the football pitch, with every single player who goes out there aware of their responsibility. In Gylfi Sigurdsson they have a playmaker capable of creating a goal out of nothing, while the Swansea City player takes a mean freekick too.
Sigurdsson forms a really good central midfield partnership with Aron Gunnarsson, the captain, and those two will be key if Iceland are to gain control in midfield. Joint managers Lars Lagerback and Helmir Hallgrimsson will hope Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, who has not had a great club season, largely due to injuries, will find his touch in front of goal, like he has so often done in international colours, while they also have the option of calling former Chelsea man Eidur Gudjohnsen.
As much as this match is about Iceland's major tournament bow, this is also about Ronaldo and that hope that Portugal will finally go all the way in a tournament and lift the title. As Lionel Messi, in another continent, looks on course for his first major tournament title with Argentina, Ronaldo will also want to be a part of that trophy joy, something he has only experienced in club colours, albeit quite a few times, with the latest one coming when Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final.
Ronaldo, who will equal Luis Figo's record for most appearances in a Portugal shirt if he gets his 127th cap on Tuesday, might not have help from Ricardo Quaresma for this Euro 2016 opener against Portugal, with the playmaker struggling with a hamstring problem. Quaresma was the star of the show as Portugal beat Estonia in an international friendly recently, scoring two and assisting a couple more in a 7-0 win. Ronaldo would have welcomed any sort of creative and goalscoring help, just to ease that burden off his shoulders, and with Quaresma a doubt, a lot of the not-Ronaldo onus will fall on Nani.
Portugal also have Joao Moutinho and Adrien Silva, two players capable of creating goals out of nothing, and it will be interesting to see if Renato Sanches, so highly rated and bought for a pretty penny by Bayern Munich, gets an opportunity.
Again, this Portugal side have the talent, but it is all about gelling together and hoping Ronaldo has one of those unforgettable tournaments.
Confirmed starting XI: Portugal: Rui Patricio; Vieirinha, Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro; Mario, Danilo, Gomes; Moutinho; Nani; Ronaldo.
Iceland: Halldorsson; Saevarsson, R Sigurdsson, Arnason, Skulason; Gudmundsson, G Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson, Bjarnason; Sigthorsson, Bodvarsson.