Iceland strengthened its second place group standing in the 2014 World Cup qualifying build-up after a 2-1 victory over Albania in an away game on Friday. Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson proved the hero of the Icelandic team, scoring the winning goal straight from a free kick ten minutes before the end of the game. Iceland has now earned six points in the qualifying round.
A football game at Laugardalsvöllur. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
Iceland’s first goal was scored by Birkir Bjarnason in the 19th minute, securing Iceland the lead. However, it only took Albania ten minutes to even the score with a goal from Edgar Cani and so the first half ended with a draw, Fréttablaðið reports.
It started to rain heavily early in the first half and the referees considered for 35 minutes at half time whether the game should be canceled.
However, they decided to keep the ball rolling and the second half took place under rather difficult circumstances. Players slid in the wet grass and had problems passing.
The game against Albania is considered to be Iceland’s best start in the qualifying build-up to a major tournament in the country’s football history.
The team’s manager, Lars Lagerbäck, was very satisfied. “It was a very difficult game. After it started raining it was just a question of getting the boys to fight till the very end. It is hard to play good football under such circumstances but they fought well and maintained their positions, which was very important.”
Lagerbäck added he is pleased with having earned six points after the first three games. “Of course nine points would have been better, but I’m content. We have completed the two longest journeys of the qualifying group and now we have to regain our strength and prepare the team as well as possible for the game against Switzerland on Tuesday.”
Last month Iceland beat Norway 2-0 but lost 0-1 against Cyprus.
Captain Aron Einar Gunnarsson received his second yellow card on Friday and will therefore be banned from playing in the game against Switzerland, which will take place at Laugardalsvöllur stadium in Reykjavík tomorrow.
This is not the only trouble Aron is facing. In an interview on fotbolti.net before the game against Albania he made derogatory jokes about the host nation, including that most of them were criminals, which were considered a violation of the ethics code of the Icelandic Football Association (KSÍ).
Aron apologized for his comments, as did president of KSÍ Geir Þorsteinsson. Lagerbäck stated it had not been discussed whether Aron should step aside as captain, “But hopefully it means that Aron has learned from his mistakes and will behave impeccably in the future.”
Spokesperson for the Albanian Football Association Liril Zalla told ruv.is that there will be no consequences because of Aron’s comments as both he and Geir were honest in their apologies.
Click here to read more about the World Cup qualifying build-up.