Italy held by Iceland as both sides remain without Euro 2022 win

Iceland celebrate taking an early lead but Italy would equalise in the second half

A year ago, an Italy team celebrated winning a European Championships in England. History may not repeat itself. If Roberto Mancini’s men tasted glory, ignominy could beckon for Milena Bertolini’s women. Even as they averted a second successive defeat, they remain threatened with early elimination. Valentina Bergamaschi denied Iceland just a second ever win at the European Championships and secured Italy a first point of this year’s tournament, but their status as bad starters, in more ways than one, could prove decisive.

Italy finished in the ascendant, looking for a winner but, both against Iceland and in the tournament, they have been hampered by disastrous beginnings. They made history in unwanted fashion by conceding five goals in the first half against France. They at least preserved parity for eight minutes then. They were trailing to Iceland before three minutes had elapsed, courtesy of Karolina Lea Vilhjalmsdottir’s fine strike. It was only in the second half, after Bertolini made a host of changes, that a side who were quarter-finalists in the 2019 World Cup, started to look superior.

More was expected of them, but Monday’s meeting with Belgium still offers a chance to reach the last eight. That looked more improbable when Iceland, like France before them, capitalised on Italy’s early errors. Le Azzurre failed to clear a long throw and the Bayern Munich midfielder Vilhjalmsdottir’s rising shot from the penalty spot flew past Laura Giuliani. With Italy looking fallible, there could have been a second goal soon after, with Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir shooting over the bar.

Valentina Bergamaschi struck to deny Iceland

At least, after conceding five times in the first 45 minutes on Sunday, Italy only let in once here. After that initial shock, they grew into the game and started to apply some pressure but lacked conviction in front of goal before the break. Sandra Sigurdardottir held Arianna Caruso’s 20-yard shot. When a fine chance came her way, Martina Piemonte, Italy’s scorer against France, scuffed a shot wide. But with Glodis Viggosdottir defiant in defence, as she made a series of well-judged interventions, Iceland looked solid.

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But they had an unfortunate sense of déjà vu. Iceland lost a lead against Belgium and, once again, an inability to get a second goal cost them. They had a golden chance when the substitute Alexandra Johansdottir shot wide from close range. It proved a turning point, as Italy sped forward and Bergamaschi converted Barbara Bonansea’s cutback. The catalytic Bonansea then hit the inside of the post, with goalkeeper Sigurdardottir applying a telling touch, and the replacement’s impact was reward for Bertolini, who had brought her on as she made three changes before the hour mark.

The substitutes made a difference as Iceland struggled to retain the ball, leading to waves of attacks. Yet even as Italy threatened to outclass Iceland on the pitch, they were outnumbered and out-sung in the stands. The thunderclapping Iceland fans vastly outnumbered their Italian counterparts. They included the country’s president, Gudni Johannesson; in a tale of two politicians, the Italy prime minister, Mario Draghi, resigned during the match, though because of it. For another Italian leader, Bertolini, Monday assumes huge proportions.

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