Iceland provide tough test for WU17 holders Spain
Wednesday, 27 July 2011
Spain are aiming to retain their UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship crown but must first overcome a buoyant Iceland team in a fascinating semi-final on Thursday.
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The titleholders and a dangerous newcomer cross swords when Spain and Iceland meet in what looks to be a fascinating UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship semi-final in Nyon on Thursday.
Spain are looking to keep hold of the crown they captured courtesy of a penalty shoot-out success against the Republic of Ireland 12 months ago. La Rojita also reached the final in 2009 but were overcome 7-0 by an extremely talented Germany side.
This proud record might suggest Spain are expected to claim the title again, yet their astute young coach who guided them to glory in 2010, Jorge Vilda, disagrees. "We are not under any additional pressure because we are the titleholders," he said. "We're just thinking that being here is already a success for us and there is not an obligation to win the tournament."
Iceland, meanwhile, come to Switzerland buoyed by a superb qualifying competition in which they scored 37 goals in six matches against rivals of the quality of Sweden and England. Nevertheless, coach Thorlákur Árnason knows there are a lot of unknown factors to take into consideration.
"Our preparation has been different from other teams because our season is ongoing in Iceland," said Árnason ."Most of the players are playing in the Premier League. They have played a lot of games and we haven't had a lot of time with them.
"The team has not trained together except for three or four practices before we came here. What we have is the closeness of the players − Iceland is a small country, the players know each other, they play against each other, they play in a good league − that's why we're here."
Iceland's prolific form has certainly caught the eye of Vilda. "Our opponents are very dangerous," he said. "They are a very well-organised team and very well set up by their coach. It's obviously going to be a very close match and we'll be doing our utmost to win it."
Árnason added: "It's very difficult to say if the team is ready. It's new for us to go into a tournament like this, so you can never be sure − we'll know on the day."