Sweden faced off against Iceland in the quest to separate themselves at the top of Group F in European Championship Qualifying. As talented as Sweden are, Iceland are no easy opponent, having drawn with Sweden earlier on to set up a much anticipated rematch.
Iceland approached this second encounter the exact same way they approached the first — defending in a compact and variable 4-4-2 that sought to contain Asllani and prevent Sweden from playing through the middle. They were largely successful in this endeavor, as they had the ball side striker drop off to further clog the midfield and create situational 4-5-1 structures. They also made sure to foul Asllani any time she managed to receive between the lines.
When Iceland won the ball back, they looked to counter quickly (if they could) or tried to pump the ball into the channels. This usually looked like lots of direct passes but also came off of more patient possessions sequences. In the latter, Iceland circulated the ball from side-to-side and waited for their striker to double up with the winger on one side.
But possession mostly resided with the Swedes, as Peter Gerhardsson’s team pressed and counterpressed unlike Iceland, who largely declined to do so (aside from sporadic counterpressing sequences and on opposition throw-ins).
Thus, Sweden’s only real avenue to attack the box lay in wide areas, though Iceland didn’t exactly make it easy to comfortably enter those areas. The underdogs shifted over to the relevant wing well and their wide players were always disciplined in tracking back. Nevertheless, Sweden did get off crosses from the flanks, creating an early chance for Asllani that she headed wide.
This revealed an Iceland weakness that was present in their previous draw vs. Sweden — box defending. For all their good work, the island nation were liable to blow it all up thanks to a poor clearance or missed block. Such a moment occurred in the 25th minute, when a ball lofted in from a central area was not adequately dealt with, allowing Sofia Jakobsson to burst in from the right wing and grab a poacher’s goal.
Being behind, Iceland had to commit more players forward, allowing Sweden more chances to get going in transition — which is where Asllani got most of her touches. In the 57th minute, Asllani got on the ball facing a scattered defense and fed Olivia Schough. The left winger smartly dipped inside past a defender and nestled a thunderous shot into the top corner.
The right winger was initially isolated from play, as Sweden mainly directed things down their left side and struggled to circulate the ball effectively in the final third. After Jakobsson got her goal, Sweden regained some of their verve and Asllani did her best to start feeding possession to the right side. Sofia wasn’t as efficient in 1v1’s as she would’ve liked once this happened, but she remained a threat throughout the match and was eager to cut inside to fire with her weaker left foot.
It’s hard to get a very high rating when the opposition is almost entirely dedicated to shutting you out of a game, but the #10’s influence grew steadily as Sweden launched more and more counter-attacks against an increasingly desperate Iceland. Similar to Jakobsson, her efficiency in these situations wasn’t top notch, but her involvement through sheer volume and her uncanny ability to instantly create outlets definitely made her a net positive on the day.
Group F now looks like this:
With this result, Sweden have qualified for the 2021 Euros.