After the extensive reporting on Strákarnir Okkar’s (“Our Boys”) journey to the World Cup, it’s high time we focus on the Icelandic Valkyries. The women’s national football team is fighting its way through a tough qualifying round and hopefully into the World Cup finals, with equal ferocity.
The women’s team has never competed in the finals of a World Cup—so far, that is. The draw for the qualifying group stages decided that the fierce team, led by captain Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, would compete in group five, where they encountered the deadly Germany, the Czech Republic, raging rivals Slovenia, and virtual neighbours—hailing from an even smaller island than Iceland—The Faroe Islands.
The Valkyries’ first test of strength was against the Faroese team in a game that turned into a massacre: the Icelanders knew no mercy and beat their Nordic islander sisters 8-0, leaving no doubt about their intentions for the competition.
Take that, Germany
Next, it was time to face the smirking Germans, who—certain of an easy victory on their home turf—got more than they bargained for. After only fifteen minutes, Dagný Brynjarsdóttir hammered the ball into the goal, giving the Germans their first taste of the smiting that would follow.
Germany did equalise—like the men’s team, the Valkyries like to pump up the drama and lull their opponents into a false sense of security. But then, a cold wind blew through the stadium, and those present reportedly felt sure that it was the goddess Frigg encouraging her mighty warriors to unleash their powers. And so they did—minutes after the equaliser, Elín Metta Jensen hit home and Dagný scored again. The Germans were shook, and unable to recover from this mighty demonstration of Icelandic footballing power. They left the field defeated with the thunder of the “Húh!” ringing in their ears.
All we do is win, win, win
After this historic smiting, Iceland were in a commanding position, topping the qualification group. The big-game-hungry Valkyries took their foot off the gas against Czech Republic, drawing 1-1. However, they were back in full swing against Slovenia after a well-deserved winter break, claiming a 2-0 victory. The return leg against the Faroes was next, and their second bout against the Ice Queens was equally painful to watch, with the Faroese again failing to score as Iceland smashed an emphatic five goals past them. In their last game to date, the Valkyries proved a point by triumphing over Slovenia in the return leg, staying on top of the group and looking set for qualification.
There are two games to go in the qualifying round. On September 1st, an already trembling German team will face the power of Iceland’s marauding women once more; after that, the Czech Republic is in for another battering on September 4th. Rumour has it that Germany has called emergency meetings about the game and plan to flood the Laugardagsvöllur arena lighting system with power in order to blind their opponents with bright light, as Iceland has just experienced a dismal summer. But with burning hot lava reserves pooling under the pitch, and Ásatrú goddesses watching over the game, there’s nothing to keep the mighty Stelpurnar Okkar from smiting their way into the their first ever World Cup finals.
Klara Bjartmarz, general secretary of the Icelandic football association—KSÍ—remains cautiously optimistic. “We are, of course, very happy with the recent results,” she says. “But we know that we have not qualified for the World Cup yet, so there’s still a long way to go.”
The team is aim is to directly qualify for the World Cup, without entering play-offs. Klara says that they’re doing as much as possible to seal the deal by preparing well for the upcoming matches. “We’ll just have to see how well the players will perform on the pitch,” she says. “That’s what counts at the end of the day. Germany is a world leader in women’s football. They have been a driving force for the sport, so it’s a task as difficult as it can be—but we will try our best.”
Klara thinks that even in the almost unthinkably unlikely event of Iceland failing to qualify for the World Cup, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. “This competition is neither the beginning nor the end of women’s football in Iceland,” she says. “We have qualified for three European championships in a row, and even if we didn’t qualify, we will continue to play football.”
That said, the recent support for women’s team has been so strong that KSÍ is aiming for a sold-out stadium for the September matches. “I think it’s safe to say that the women’s team has been gaining much attention in recent years,” finishes Klara. “The number of players is growing, and we’ve had steadily good results in the past years.” So, on go the Valkyries, marching towards their World Cup destiny. We’ll be cheering them on. Áfram Stelpur!
Info: See Iceland face Germany on September 1st and the Czech Republic on September 4th. Both games are at the Laugardalsvöllur arena in Reykjavík. Check ksi.is for ticket info.