Cyprus Mail

Cyprus look to the future after Iceland loss

By Nemanja Bjedov
CYPRUS were beaten 2-0 by Iceland in their penultimate World Cup qualifier on Friday night in Reykjavik and remain bottom of Group E with four points from nine matches.
After a goalless first half, the hosts’ patient approach paid off when Ajax striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson struck from close range on the hour and Tottenham’s attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson then set up the final score sixteen minutes later.
“We knew from before that we would have a tough task against an opponent who needed to win. In the first half our players did well to defend our goal and try to surprise Iceland on the counter-attack.
“After the break we held on until their first goal and then it became very difficult for us to react properly which eventually led to conceding again,” assessed Cypriot caretaker manager Michalis Hadjipieris.
Sigthorsson scored after a shot by Johann Berg Gudmundsson and the home side put the outcome beyond any doubt when Sigurdsson turned in a header from Kari Arnason.
In the last minute of the match Iceland had three opportunities to make their victory even more convincing but Cyprus goalkeeper Antonis Giorgallides produced some excellent saves.
“With several new players involved, I have recognized many positives that will help us shape the future we want for our national football team. This is our main objective,” Hadjipieris concluded.
Iceland are currently second in Group E with 16 points and victory over Norway on Tuesday will secure them a second-place finish behind group winners Switzerland, who defeated Albania 2-1 away from home on the night and qualified automatically for next summer’s tournament.
Elsewhere in Group E, Slovenia claimed a superb 3-0 victory over Norway in Maribor and they are now only one point behind Iceland in the play-off spot. They will be looking to beat Switzerland on Tuesday in Berne and hope that Iceland fail to secure three points in Oslo, although a draw could suffice for Slovenia to finish second should Norway beat Iceland.
In their final match of the campaign, Cyprus will play on Tuesday night at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia against Albania. In the first match between the two nations, last September in Tirana, Albania celebrated a 3-1 victory with substitutes Edgar Cani and Erjon Bogdani both scoring in the last six minutes to help their team secure a hard-fought win.

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