Algarve Cup Review: How did the bottom six do?

Algarve Cup Review: How did the bottom six do?

Nation by nation we look at how each side fared (Part 2)

Sophie Lawson

Following on from part 1 in which we looked at how each of the top six teams fared at the Algarve Cup, we look to the other side of the coin with the bottom six.

7th – Sweden

The only team to win, draw and lose in the group stages, Sweden were a mixed bag at the Algarve, the starting XI rarely changed but the performances still dividing.

A narrow win over Australia kicked-off their tournament, though the Swedes refused more than one chance to close out the match, a 0-0 against China followed before a narrow loss to the Netherlands wrapped up their group. With the players that know how to win matches, the team had the habit of looking flat and being overly reliant on Lotta Schelin.

Up against a Russia team that had just shopped six to Denmark and lost some of their resilience, Sweden charged at the Golden Eagles in the play-off, the match played almost entirely in Russia’s half. But even for all their dominance and a 2-0 advantage less than ten minutes in there was still a component missing for Blågult, Kosovare Asllani’s second another that a better team would have dealt with. Fridolina Rolfö’s goal late in the game to make it four was one of the few sparkling moments, her half-volley from outside the box a memorable one but a lack of play-makers has caused a familiar Scandinavian disconnect.

8th – Russia

An 82nd minute winner from Olesya Mashina against the hosts got Russia off to a winning start in Portugal, the team playing some of their best against Canada to come away with a 2-1 loss against the tournament favourites. The Golden Eagles wrapped up their group stage with a thumping by Denmark, Pernille Harder’s 25th minute penalty finally cut the deadlock before Margarita Chernomyrdina restored parity on the stroke of half-time. Digging their heels in defensively – as they do so well – the game was torn open by Harder just before the hour and Russia were hit for four in 17 frantic minutes.

Unable to get over the sting of their 6-1 loss to Denmark, Russia looked out of sorts against Sweden, the defence unable to deal with the constant press from another Nordic side and were unable to deal with the most obvious of attacks.

Liked to finish dead last in their Euro group, Russia will have to deal with their own mental fatigue if they’re to get anywhere in Holland.

9th – Iceland

Going behind in four minutes of their opening game, Iceland did well to get themselves back into their tie against Norway in as many minutes and showed a good defensive shape and ethic to limit the Grasshoppers’ options throughout. Again, put on the back-foot early on in their next game after Yui Hasegawa’s six-minute brace, Iceland more showed their solid defensive core and did well to keep Japan out for the remainder.  The pieces finally came together for Freyr Alexandersson’s side in their last group game, the team starting off defensively strong without having to go behind, Iceland boasted the distinction of being the only team they faced that Spain couldn’t score against.

Contesting ninth in their play-off against China, Iceland finally found the right balance and for the first time at the Algarve took the lead in a match, Málfríður Erna Sigurðardóttir getting the ball rolling less than ten minutes in. Although Guðbjörg Gunnarsdóttir failed to replicate Sonný Lára Þráinsdóttir’s clean sheet when she conceded to Wang Shanshan’s effort ten minutes before half-time. But once more, Sigurðardóttir was there for her side to nudge them back in front two minutes after the break and Iceland held out to claim their first win of the tournament.

Up against different kinds of opposition, Iceland have been given a chance to grow this month, the balance between defence and attack something that will need more fine-tuning, the side well in contention to go through second in their Euro group.

10th – China

A team still in transition after Bruno Bini took over from a departing Hao Wei, China have yet to find their fluidity under their new manager, able to compete with all they faced in Portugal the side still hasn’t hit the high notes.

A first day 1-0 loss to the Netherlands kicked the tournament off for the Steel Roses, the team able to hold Sweden to a scoreless draw in an open and competitive match in Vila Real de Santo António two days later. China’s first-half lead over Australia squandered after the break as the Matildas finally found a way past Zhao Lina to snatch a late (and deserved) 2-1 win. The one point they’d amassed in the groups forcing them to fight for 9th place against Iceland, another match to be decided by a lone goal. Once more China showed good hustle but couldn’t find a second equaliser after Málfríður Sigurðardóttir had fired Iceland back in front.

With all eyes on the Asia Cup next year and World Cup qualification, Bini needs to get his team on the right side of all their 1-0 losses.

11th – Norway

With a good mood about the team after having won both friendlies in La Manga, Martin Sjögren’s Norway peaked in the first four minutes of the tournament, the team dangerous before their opening goal against Iceland before suddenly looking out of ideas. The theme a continued as they lost 3-0 to an attacking Spain side, the Football Girls unable to capitalise on a player advantage after Mapi León had been dismissed just before the break. A 2-0 loss to a better Japan side wrapping up their group stage, a team that had looked so strong two months prior forced to battle against the hosts to avoid coming dead last.

Ingvild Isaksen’s direct free-kick less than fifteen minutes into the placement match enough to get Norway stirring into life against a Portugal side desperate to get something from their last match. Guro Reiten’s debut goal for the Grasshoppers just after the hour was enough for the Norse side to do away with Portugal and save their own blushes.

With the players Norway have it’s quite obvious they shouldn’t be finishing one up from bottom, even in a tournament like the Algarve, the problems on the pitch more than apparent for their new coach. With a longer-term plan in mind, the Euros offer a chance for continued improvement ahead of World Cup qualification.

12th – Portugal

After a late loss to Russia in their opening game, Portugal began to sag, confidence knocked and the hosts well roundly humiliated in their next match against Denmark. Far better than their 6-0 loss, Portugal did well to claw back a point against tournament favourites Canada, the team finally showing some mettle, giving the home crowd something to cheer about.

The lone point and goal difference of minus seven firmly put them on the back foot, going into their seventeenth last place play-off match, Portugal were looking not to finish dead last for the ninth time. A goal down less than fifteen minutes in, the hosts kept themselves alive throughout, the inconsistent team trying to find their best on home soil but couldn’t find enough drive to get past Cecilie Fiskerstrand. Reiten’s goal after the hour enough to drive the nails into the coffin for A Selecção das Quinas.

Better than their results, Portugal are still a long way away from having a strong starting XI, a few shining stars unable drag the entire team up but having shown their best in Euro qualification – and highly unflavoured to do much at in the Netherlands – Portugal have nothing to lose this summer, the lack of pressure on their shoulders maybe enough to draw about their best.