Iceland and the Republic of Ireland not only have each other to overcome to reach UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ but also the freezing Reykjavik conditions as they face the second leg of their play-off with the score 1-1.
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A 1-1 draw in Dublin on Sunday left this tie delicately poised ahead of Thursday's return at Reykjavik's Laugardalsvöllur Stadium, but the freezing conditions in the Icelandic capital have complicated matters, and snow was being removed from the pitch on Wednesday. But referee Christine Beck was satisfied with the surface after an initial pitch inspection that evening and home coach Siggi Eyjólfsson has not been distracted from his goal, a place in next summer's finals in Finland.
"I feel good about the game," Eyjólfsson said. "The problem with the pitch is no issue. We are preparing for a game on Thursday and this should not influence the concentration of my players. The first leg was like we expected, a even game, but this one coming up will be a final. Maybe we could have done better in Ireland but we scored an away goal and it is clear that a goalless draw is enough for us. Then again, in all my 20 games with the team a goal has been scored and we have 100 per cent record at home so we will play to win. I know I have the team for it and with good support we will reach our goal."
Indeed, Iceland are hoping to fill all 7,000 seats at the stadium having attracted big crowds for their four home qualifying wins, which included a 1-0 defeat of France. However, Ireland proved their mettle on Sunday as they recovered from conceding a goal inside the first minute to equalise through Stefanie Curtis, and manager Noel King is optimistic.
Dream still alive
"I'm delighted that we're still in the tie, considering how bad of a start we got off to," said King, whose team have been training indoors. "When we conceded a goal after just 25 seconds, I began to wonder how the game would go. As the game wore on, we began to find solutions to the problems which affected us at the start and the response was magnificent. By taking the game to Iceland, especially in the second half, we deserved our equaliser and did enough to win the game over the 90 minutes. I'm not worried about away goals because now that we have seen Iceland in action, we know that we're capable of beating them. The dream of qualifying for our first major championship is stronger than ever. The players will make sure they do their utmost to make that dream a reality on Thursday."