Iceland’s victory in Reykjavik may well go down as their most important one to date and the moment when qualification for a first major international tournament became reality, but for the Czechs it was a night to forget and one that could be the turning point on a road to despair. One individual error, one collective mistake, two goals conceded and the lead of Group A squandered.
Coupled with the Netherlands’ victory over Latvia and Turkey’s last-gasp win in Kazakhstan, it was a bad night for the Czechs and one that ensured the slip up at home to Latvia looks all the more significant moving forwards.
After the game Vrba lamented those blunders and pointed out that those domestic-based players have to acclimatise better to the pace of the continental game. A lax or wayward pass might not be punished as clinically away at Ceske Budejovice, but against a rabid and energetic Iceland side any error is costly.
“This is international football,” Vrba said post-game. You can almost picture him shaking in head in disbelief.
The key, according to the 51-year-old is to ensure the majority of his players are up to speed with the continental game. He spoke about the form showed last autumn when victories against the Netherlands and Turkey (and Iceland) came alongside Sparta Prague’s foray into the Europa League, and demanded a repeat performance. Either qualify for Europe, or move: That seems to be the message from the top.
The game itself was a riveting one. Laugardalsvollur was rocking, partly in thanks to the travelling Czechs. For the first forty-five minutes the tie was tense, with both sides creating a couple of chances of note with the best falling to Tomas Necid who headed wide from a Pavel Kaderabek cross.
But after the break the game escalated and everybody, in a joint manner, pushed onwards in a higher gear. Kaderabek, who was excellent again throughout, pushed forwards, as did David Limbersky on the opposing flank. Rosicky showed his passing ability and Necid caused problems in the lone striker role. And then the breakthrough came: Tomas Pilar darted forward, found Necid, who cushioned the ball before tapping it through the legs of one Icelandic defender towards Borek Dockal who struck it straight and true past Hannes Halldorsson.
Five minutes later the scores were level when the entire Czech backline switched off to allow Aron Gunnarsson to capitalise on a long ball to head past Petr Cech. At that moment the tie changed. Buoyed by momentum, the support of the home crowd and a glaring miss from Ladislav Krejci, the Icelanders pushed onwards and began to bully the Czechs.
Kolbein Sigthorsson put the home side ahead, capitalising on a calamitous error by Lukas Vacha, and heads dropped. Vrba threw on debutante Milan Skoda and Vladimir Darida in a bid to get back into the tie, but Iceland held firm to record their fourth successive home victory.
There’s still plenty of time though and six points from their next two games – at home to Kazakhstan and away to Latvia – will put them in prime position to spend next summer in France, but there’s a lot more pressure on the squad now than there should be. Iceland however, they’re rocking.
Halldorsson (Sandnes Ulf) – Saevarsson (Hammarby), Arnason (Rotherham United), R. Sigurdsson (Krasnodar), Skulason (OB) – Bjarnason (Pescara), Gunnarsson (Cardiff City), Hallfredsson (Verona – sub: 63’ Bodvarsson, Viking), Gudmundsson (Charlton Athletic) – G. Sigurdsson (Swansea City), Sigthorsson (Real Sociedad – sub: 90’ Gislason, Nurnberg)
Cech – Kaderabek (Sparta Prague), Sivok (Besiktas), Prochazka (Viktoria Plzen), Limbersky (Viktoria Plzen) – Vacha (Sparta Prague – sub: 79’ Skoda, Slavia Prague), Plasil (Bordeaux) – Dockal (Sparta Prague – sub: 84’ Darida, Freiburg), Rosicky (Arsenal), Pilar (Viktoria Plzen – sub: 68’ Krejci, Sparta Prague) – Necid (PEC Zwolle)
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 13th June 2015