Iceland with purpose
Despite having a game each to play after this tie, the group was firmly hinged on the outcome, Iceland having put the sword to the Germans in their first meeting in Germany last year. Allowing the visitors no time on the ball, it was Iceland who pressed on in the opening minutes, the resolute blue midfield pushing against their opposition. Iceland’s physical style causing early problems for the highest ranked team in the group, Sara Doorsoun constantly hounded as Sara Däbritz was muscled off the ball when she tried to mount a break.
The ground slick from earlier rain, a cold wind swirled around Laugardalsvöllur as the crowd broke out into their first Viking thunderclap of the afternoon, the match continued on, the Germans doing well to ignore the atmospheric noise. A hopeful shot from Hallbera Gísladóttir was not enough to worry Almuth Schult before the Germans found a tempo to go forward, a ball flashed across goal by Alex Popp the first real missed opperunity of the match 17 minutes in.
A flurry of pressure saw three chances on the spin for the visitors, a long cross field ball from Popp enough to set Lea Schüller off and running, her ball crossed back in attacked and missed by a flying Popp. The ball worked itself out to Svenja Huth who then took a hopeful shot, the ball catching a pair of ankles and pinging back out for Melanie Leupolz to try her hand, her shot enough to have Guðbjörg Gunnarsdóttir scrambling before it went wide.
Having found a rhythm, Germany took control of possession, forcing the hosts back though they found time and space for frequent breaks and counters. A miscue from Gísladóttir followed with a hopeful effort from Leonie Maier, the ball slipping from Gunnarsdóttir’s gloves before she jumped on the spinning ball.
The pressure was ramped up by the Germans, Carolin Simon a live wire down the left, determined to keep the ball alive despite the number of challenges thrown at her by the home defence. White shirts moved forward but the ball stayed with Simon on the dead ball line, pass followed by block until Leupolz picked up the ball outside the box, skipped around one defender before firing at goal. The shot clean by parried by Gunnarsdóttir, both Huth and Popp lurking to pounce, the Potsdam woman the one to lash the ball into the unguarded net.
Starting the second half as they finished the first, Germany soon had the ball in the back of the net although it was fast ruled out with Schüller adjudged to have illegally pressured Gunnarsdóttir. The pressure was however, unrelenting, a speculative shot from Sara Däbritz, much like one from Bayern teammate Leupolz had the ‘keeper at full stretch and only able to push the ball back into the mixer. Blue shirts frantically blocked as both Huth and Schüller tried to turn the ball home, a scramble but enough done to keep the deficit at one.
Down but nowhere near out, Iceland continued to counter at will, the industrious Fanndis Friðriksdóttir taking aim from ranging just before the hour, her strike a clean one that slipped agonisingly wide of Schult’s left upright. The crowd broke out into a second thunderclap on the hour as the wind continued to curl though Reykjavik, affecting the already imperfect attempted passes that littered the game.
Keeping herself busy all match, Huth again found herself in the right place at the right time, slamming home a second goal after being found by Simon to leave the hosts with little room for a comeback.
The match slowed itself down in the last ten minutes, a handful of substitutions made but the bite having left the German side who would have undoubtedly been happy to wrap the match up unscathed. Looking for no more than a conciliation against a frustrating German defence, the Icelandic attacks became few and far between, their early press having long since dissolved. The match ticked down to its conclusion, those in blue still trying to chase down every ball but it was too little, minds already turning to a must-win against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.