“This is a European Championship of suffering for us,” said Italy’s head coach, Milena Bertolini, after her team picked up their first point. Iceland feel they share the Italians’ pain after drawing their opening two games.
Both teams had chances to win, the best falling to Karólína Lea Vilhjálmsdóttir late on but she shot wide from close range with the goal gaping to give Italy hope of qualifying from the group after their thrashing against France last time out. Vilhjálmsdóttir had opened the scoring but her goal was cancelled out by Valentina Bergamaschi.
After conceding five goals against France, Italy’s defence looked nervous and it cost them in the third minute. Poor defending of set-pieces has been a theme throughout the tournament and Italy were the latest to pay the price when they failed to deal with Sveindís Jónsdóttir’s long throw-in, which was struck into the top corner on the half-volley by Vilhjálmsdóttir from inside the area to the backdrop of an Icelandic roar.
An inability to deal with a corner soon after almost brought the second when pinball ensued after two defensive clearances went up rather than out but Vilhjálmsdóttir sent her shot wide on the spin.
Another poor piece of defensive play just after the hour should have resulted in a second when a free-kick from the right was allowed to trickle along the six-yard line to the feet of the substitute Alexandra Jóhannsdóttir but she failed to compose herself, despite being unmarked, and jabbed wide.
It was an error Iceland paid for moments later when fine wing play on the left by Barbara Bonansea created panic at the opposite end for once and a roaming Bergamaschi found space 10 yards out and kept calm to sidefoot home.
The goal swung the game in Italy’s favour. The Icelandic thunderclap and drumming were deployed in the stands in an attempt to turn the tide back in their team’s favour but an Italian turnaround was almost completed in the 72nd minute thanks to a rapid counterattack that went from the edge of one penalty area to the other in a blink of an eye. The ball found its way to Cristiana Girelli but despite her shot finding its way under Sandra Sigurdardóttir she had to watch it bounce back off the base of the post.
The crowd held its breath in the 86th minute when Sveindís Jónsdóttir got the byline to pull the ball back for Vilhjálmsdóttir, who missed in the centre of goal when scoring seemed easier. It cost her side two points, which Iceland could regret with France to come in their final group game.
“This was a very tough game mentally speaking,” Bertolini said. “Conceding a goal in that way after a very bad defeat against France hit us very badly psychologically. They stayed in the match and proved their own qualities.”