Rotterdam, July 26, 2017 - What a difference a few years can make. Ever since 2011, women’s football has been on the rise in Austria. After making their major tournament debut this summer, Dominik Thalhammer’s side won their group to progress to the quarter-finals with a 3-0 victory over Iceland.
During the first ever meeting between the two sides, Austria had to secure at least one point at the Sparta Stadion against an Icelandic side that already found themselves out of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017. But they got plenty of more: Sarah Zadrazil, Nina Burger and Stefanie Enzinger found the back of the net as Austria switched from dark horses to a side that have to be taken seriously.
Inspired by a blue wall, Iceland would however not return home without putting up a fight. After some nervous moments, left-winger Fanndis Fridriksdóttir tried her luck as she shot just wide – the closest Iceland would get during the first half.
During the opening minutes of the game, Austria could have already opened the score. Following a corner, right-back Katharina Schiechtl picked out captain Nina Burger, but the experienced 29-year-old failed to beat goalkeeper Gudbjörg Gunnarsdóttir from close-range.
Head coach Freyr Alexandersson decided to opt for a brick-wall defence. Iceland were however struggling to find a grip as their build-up play lacked conviction and precision.
Ten minutes before half-time, Austria rewarded themselves as Sarah Zadrazil managed to break the deadlock. The midfielder tapped in with ease after Gunnarsdóttir failed to claim an easy cross and gave away the ball to the 24-year-old.
Austria doubled their lead just before half-time when Burger slotted her effort past helpless Gunnarsdóttir at the near post. While the Austrian captain received recognition following her goal, Austria overall delivered as a strong unit.
Die Burschen returned after the interval and continued where they left off, forcing Gunnarsdóttir to dismantle yet another attempt on target. This time Laura Feiersinger had a go from inside the box.
The always impressive ‘Viking clap’ from the crowd seemed to have no effect on Austria, possibly thanks to the presence of psychologist Mirjam Wolf, who has been part of the squad since 2011.
As both sides went into the last quarter of the match, little of note happened. Austria started to press with less intensity, which gave Iceland the impression they were getting into the game more as time went by. Having entered the pitch as a substitute, Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir saw her shot being blocked following a spell of pinball inside the box.
Five minutes before the final-whistle jubilation, Austria put the game to bed through a well-earned goal by substitue Stefanie Enzinger. The forward smashed the ball into the back of the net just before Gunnarsdóttir could react – this time around sending the Austrian fans into a frenzy.
After a strong performance, Austria topped the group with seven points and qualified for the final eight ahead of second-placed France on five points. Their quarter-finals will take place on Sunday 30 July. Switzerland and Iceland were both eliminated with respectively four and zero points each.