Denmark 2011 – Day Five Review – Iceland win but crash out with the Danish
Having lost their opening two games in disappointing fashion, Iceland knew that only maximum points against the tournament hosts in their final UEFA European Under-21 Championships group game would be enough. Once victory over Denmark was assured, as convincingly as possible, would they be able to consider the awkward scenario that would see them sneak into the semi-finals with just three points. Unfortunately for Iceland their deserved 3-1 win wasn’t enough and they crashed out of the tournament along with Denmark.
Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Birkir Bjarnason stunned the expectant home crowd with goals two minutes apart. Sigthorsson flicked in Bjarnason’s cross at the near post before provider turned goal scorer with a fine flying header. Denmark were quick to regroup but were unable to produce a quick response; a stellar rear-guard performance from the Iceland side forced Denmark to toil before their consolation goal came with just nine minutes to go.
Bashkim Kadrii nodded in the goal but any hope he injected into the Danish crowd was dashed by a superb goal that put the result beyond doubt. Hjortur Valgardsson curled in a sublime effort from outside the area that was ultimately in vain for Iceland as they crashed out by virtue of their defeat to Belarus in the competition’s opener.
In the other Group A game, Belarus were thoroughly second best to Switzerland but qualified for the final four thanks to a superior record over Denmark and Iceland. The three teams were all locked on three points with matching goal differences and could only be separated by a ‘mini-table’ that helped Belarus to claim the second place.
Switzerland continued their fine form with a comfortable 3-0 win over their opponents to cruise into the semi-finals with maximum points. Admir Mehmedi struck twice in the first half to set the Swiss on their way before Frank Feltscher added a third in injury time. By the time, Feltscher struck from a tight angle Belarus had seen Sergei Matveychik dismissed for two contemptuous challenges on Xherdan Shaqiri.
Arguably the form team of the competition so far, Pierluigi Tami’s side needed only six minutes to take the lead. Shaqiri, so often at the centre of Switzerland’s positive play, drove forward and sent Innocent Emeghara clear with a delicate pass. The rampaging striker was brought down for a penalty that was confidently converted by Mehmedi.
The FC Zurich striker had his second goal two minutes before the break. Granit Xhaka pounced on a sloppy pass by Yegor Filipenko and found Mehmedi, who produced a lovely finish off the base of the post to effectively settle the match.
Rather than striving for a result in the second half, Belarus targeted Shaqiri for some rough treatment that was correctly disciplined by the referee. Matveychik summed up his side’s frustrations by picking up two needless bookings from cynical challenges on the stand-out performer of the tournament so far.
Feltscher was introduced off the bench and wrapped up matters with an expert finish from the tightest of angles. The only worry for the Swiss from the game will be the booking picked up by the combative Xhaka. The card was the second received by the FC Basel midfielder and will rule him out of the semi-finals.