“A lot depends on it and that’s a nice thing”

If Jackie Gronin had to categorize opponents as “difficult”, Iceland is definitely one of them. However, the national team and Manchester United midfielder is looking forward to Tuesday night’s meeting with the Iceland national team. Groenen loves to play matches where a lot is at stake – and there is a lot at stake in Utrecht. The Netherlands or Iceland guarantee their participation in the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia.

To avoid occasionally rotating unexpectedly in the play-off games, new national coach Andres Juncker’s side have to beat Iceland at Stadion Galgenwaard. In the qualifying series, the Netherlands dropped four points due to two draws against the Czech Republic. Iceland only made one slip, defeating the Netherlands, and therefore has one less losing point. Iceland need a draw to qualify to fight for the world title for the first time.

Unbeaten in EC

Iceland is a strong opponent. Thorsten Halldorsson, national coach since 2021, has lost only ten matches to the United States this year. At the European Championships in England, the “Dotter family” tied 1-1 three times, against Belgium, Italy and France. This unbeaten status was not enough for a place in the quarter-finals. Last Friday, the day the Netherlands trained against Scotland (2-1), Iceland won the World Cup qualifier against Belarus 6-0.

“I’ve never found it easy to play against Iceland,” Groen said of Tuesday’s opponent. “It’s a very strong team, with physically strong girls and some of them fast up front. Really strong guys, if I have to describe them. They also play a very different kind of football than we do. And I understand they also have some players who have come back with more quality. I hope. Being good enough at handling the ball that they don’t get into their game.”

high bar

Since her debut with Orange in 2016, Groenen has played three times against Iceland. In 2017 in Doetinchem (win 4-0), in 2018 during the Algarve Cup (0-0) and last September in cold, windy and rainy Reykjavik (win 0-2). “It was a tough match as well,” Gronin said. “That’s part of it too, but it wasn’t one of my favorite matches. Yes, I scored. A good goal from a distance. I hope to be able to show it again on Tuesday.”

Gruen is looking forward to Tuesday’s crucial game. She says competitions are always about “super excitement”. “A lot depends on that and that’s great,” said the 91-time international, who looks back with a good feeling about the brief collaboration with Juncker. “He insists on things that I think are also important, such as good passes, tight balls and the cleanliness of the game. He just sets the standards very high and I love coaching that.”

good memories

Under the leadership of her fourth national coach – after Arjaan van der Laan, Sarena Wegmann, Mark Parsons and now Juncker – Gruen has returned to Utrecht. She has good memories of Stadion Galgenwaard. In November 2018, the Netherlands beat Switzerland 3-0 in the World Cup play-off, and Gronin sometimes thinks of July 16, 2017, the opening match of the European Championship that marked the beginning of the Netherlands’ international breakthrough. “Fueling with Norway is in my head as one of my best matches.”

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