Iceland defender Kari Arnason has hit back strongly following criticism from "sore loser" Cristiano Ronaldo, insisting his controversial comments following the creditable 1-1 Euro 2016 draw against Portugal in Saint-Etienne on Tuesday night (14 June) showcased exactly why the Real Madrid star will always stay one step behind CR7's long-time Barcelona rival Lionel Messi.
Competing in their first ever major international tournament after winning six of their 10 qualifiers en route to finishing above both Turkey and the Netherlands, neutrals' favourites Iceland were not overawed by the sense of occasion and secured a well-deserved point after Birkir Bjarnason exploited some woeful defending from Vieirinha to cancel out Nani's first-half effort at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
The committed performance from Lars Lagerback's side drew widespread praise from pundits and fans alike. Not everyone was impressed, however, with frustrated Portuguese captain Ronaldo blasting their defensive focus and lack of attacking ambition as indicative of a team with a "small mentality".
He also declared Iceland's jubilant celebrations at full-time as "unbelievable" and dismissed their chances of achieving anything in the competition.
Such surprising condemnation has seen the Ballon d'Or winner accused of sour grapes, arrogance and narcissism. Arnason, the 33-year-old former Plymouth Argyle, Aberdeen and Rotherham United centre-back who largely succeeded in shackling Portugal's key threat throughout the 90 minutes, believes his words are not those of a "gracious human being".
"It makes it even sweeter when he's a sore loser like that," the 33-year-old was quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror. "I mean, he can say whatever he wants. He didn't really get a chance today, he got one and he couldn't put it away. What can I say? Sore loser. Tough s**t.
"He had a header in the final minutes of the game and a chance in the first half but otherwise I thought we had him under control. We didn't set up to man-mark him or anything, we just had to know where he was at any given moment and that he will shoot from outside the box and that everything has to be blocked.
"He's a fantastic footballer but he's not a gracious human being and the thing is we almost nicked the win, so him saying we weren't going for the win contradicts that. We got a draw and could have nicked it. Obviously we're not going to create as much chances as a fantastic team like Portugal but his comments are the reason why Messi is always going to be one step ahead of him. It shows we got under his skin. It was lovely to hear that."
After their enormous confidence boost against Portugal, Iceland head to Marseille's Stade Velodrome on Saturday (18 June) to play Group F leaders Hungary. Ronaldo and co entertain Austria later that evening in Paris.