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Day 6: Euro 2022 heptathlon champion
Lots of eyes were drawn yesterday to France’s first half demolition of Italy which ended up finishing 5-1, but it was the other game in this group that I found particularly interesting. Iceland met Belgium at the much complained about City Academy stadium in a match which could have solidified either of these sides claims to coming out of the group second. The match finished 1-1 and although Iceland felt like the better team for most of this match that might have been predominantly to do with how fast Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir can sprint. Seriously, if you get a chance to watch her, do it, because she tore past Belgium players throughout the game.
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For Iceland, this draw will be frustrating. Both in terms of missing their own penalty in the first half, and then conceding an unnecessary one for Belgium to score in the second. It feels like Iceland have a lot of good pieces here but perhaps not the total clarity to put them all together. Take, for example, Jonsdottir’s throw-ins. I have never seen a footballer who so clearly could also have been a heptathlete and to be honest, there is no team at the top level of the women’s game who are doing anything like this. Jonsdottir’s throw ins are pure unadulterated Rory Delap, hurled into a penalty area causing defences to panic as if they were actually medieval peasants under siege. The problem was that Iceland didn’t seem to have much more of an idea what to do about them than Belgium did. In Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Iceland have a player who has specialised in the WSL for West Ham at poaching within a penalty area from set plays exactly like that. Yet they seemed to have little plan of how they wanted to attack Jonsdottir’s throws. If they can figure that out, they could yet get out of this group, but this draw will be a big blow for them.
So far all of the groups still have quite a lot of openness, with one or both of the spots through to the quarter-finals still feeling undecided. In Group A, England vs Norway tonight might make that group the most clear cut if we get a winner from it. Group B has Germany in pole position but results on Tuesday could turn that group on its head. The fact that Sweden and the Netherlands drew means that Group C has turned into an opportunity for the favourite two teams to try and put as many goals as possible past Portugal and Switzerland. And then France look to have top spot in Group D wrapped up but you could feasibly see any one of Italy, Iceland or Belgium going through. There have not necessarily been upsets in this first round of group fixtures but it certainly feels like we’re set for an intriguing next week as we iron out who will actually get through to the knock out stages, and in which position.
P.S. Apologies for the slightly later newsletter. You can blame recording the latest episode of Box To Box (which you can listen to here!) in combination with some strange train Wi-Fi goings on as I try and get from Sheffield to Brighton for England vs Norway.