SheBelieves Cup: Iceland vs. New Zealand Recap
The SheBelieves Cup started last night, marking the seventh year of the tournament. This year's lineup of teams consists of New Zealand, Iceland, Czech Republic, and the United States will run from February 17th to the 23rd. When the tournament first started, the competition was against higher ranked opponents with the US facing teams like England, Spain, and France. Although that has changed to slightly lower ranked, it is still a challenging tournament that provides growth for teams who don’t play as often and a USWNT who is in a new developmental era. There seems to be an emphasis for the US to play against programs that are growing because right now the USWNT is essentially going through their own growth period.
Going into the first game of the tournament Iceland vs. New Zealand, there are some standout players to keep an eye on. Striker Sveindís Jane Jónsdóttir won Iceland’s player of the year in 2021 despite only turning 20 in June, while veterans Dagný Brynjarsdóttir (West Ham) and Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir (Orlando Pride) anchor the midfield. New Zealand is currently continuing preparations for their 2023 World Cup co-hosting duties led by captain and former Orlando Pride, now Angel City player Ali Riley, and Abby Erceg, a well known name in the NWSL.
The game started quickly for Iceland who was able to collect the ball quickly. Iceland was able to get a foot up, scoring in the opening minutes off a goal from Dagny Brynjarsdóttir. The goal from Brynjarsdóttir marks the fastest goal in the tournament history.
Although New Zealand held more possession in the first half they were not able to get any shots off towards the goal. Comparatively, with a little less possession Iceland was able to get eight shots off, with three on target. A standout for New Zealand in the first half was Captain Ali Riley who is a commanding force on the field. She tracked back, covering a lot of gaps to stop Iceland from scoring again. In the 32nd minute Riley set a well timed cross into the box but no one was there to fully connect with it and Cecilía Rúnarsdóttir, Iceland's goalkeeper was able to collect it. A throw-in in the 35th minute almost saw Iceland a second goal, however New Zealand's keeper Erin Nayler was there to collect it in the air. Sveindís Jane Jónsdóttir was a star for the Iceland side, even with New Zealand players constantly around her she was technical and smart on the ball finding small gaps to get past the defense. At the end of the first half, Iceland had another good shot on target but it was easily collected in front of the goal, saving New Zealand from going into the half down by two. By the end of the half New Zealand, who had a bit of a rough start to the game, were able to collect the ball more and push further up the field however they were not able to notch a goal going into the half.
The second half started with a lot more of a push coming from New Zealand who wanted to tie things up. They were able to get three shots on target but only one on goal. In the 74th minute Rebekah Stott subbed on for New Zealand just a little over a year after being diagnosed and beating Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Just a minute after being on the field she helped to generate momentum sending a ball into the box, almost resulting in a goal.
Towards the last fifteen minutes of the game New Zealand began to connect more, a shift being seen when Stott subbed on. Iceland was forced to play out of the back more, eliminating their chances to push and solidify their advantage with a second goal. In the 92nd minute Iceland got close to adding a second goal with a shot from Amanda Jacobsen Andradóttir but Abby Erceg was able to deflect it right in front of the goal. In the last minute of stoppage time in the match New Zealand had two corner kicks but was unable to capitalize on either leading to a 1-0 win for Iceland gaining them three points.
FINAL SCORE: 1-0 Iceland. Goal 1' by Dagný Brynjarsdóttir