Teenager Cecilie Pedersen scored the only goal as Norway eliminated Iceland from UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ and set up a decisive Group B encounter with France on Sunday.
The 18-year-old was surprisingly given her first start for her country by Bjarne Berntsen, having only made her senior debut eight days ago, and duly repaid his faith on the stroke of half-time. The result means that Norway would ensure second place and a quarter-final berth by beating France, currently ahead on goal difference, but nothing Iceland can do against group winners Germany can prevent them finishing bottom.
Iceland almost struck what would have been the fastest goal of the finals so far when, after ten seconds, Dóra Stefánsdóttir – their one change from Matchday 1 – threaded a pass behind the Norway backline for Hólmfrídur Magnúsdóttir to run on to and shoot across goal. Norway then had the woodwork to thank for keeping the score level on 12 minutes, Dóra María Lárusdóttir exchanging passes with Margrét Lára Vidarsdóttir and floating over a cross which eluded goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth and rebounded back off the inside of the far post.
Turn of skill
Norway responded with Isabell Herlovsen looping a header on to the roof of the net moments before she tested Thóra Helgadóttir from distance. Siggi Eyjólfsson's side were still causing problems down either flank with their 4-2-3-1 formation yet it was Norway who led at the break thanks to a moment of inspiration from Pedersen, who spun Gudrún Sóley Gunnarsdóttir and Katrín Jónsdóttir outside the area and coolly beat Helgadóttir with the last kick of the half.
Pedersen very nearly picked up from where she had left off at the end of the first half when she combined with Solveig Gulbrandsen and forced Helgadóttir into a near-post save within seconds of the restart. Norway started the second period like a team eager to put the game to bed and were soon threatening again through Herlovsen and Gulbrandsen, who both shot wide when well placed.
Iceland needed an equaliser to remain in contention for the knockout stage and despite upping the tempo, were unable to breach a Norway rearguard who were successfully policing the 12-goal leading scorer in qualifying, Margrét Lára Vidarsdóttir. Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir tried to change matters with a dipping effort from distance, while at the other end an off-balance Pedersen dragged her shot wide after being played in by Gulbrandsen.