Euro 2022: Italy and Iceland’s different paths to women’s football | Sports | German football and major international sports news | DW
Gunnhildur Yrsa Jonsdottir toured the neighborhood. Since breaking into top-flight football aged just 14, the 33-year-old Icelandic defensive midfielder has made stops in Iceland, Norway, Australia and the United States.
While it may look like the checkerboard resume of a well-travelled player, Jonsdottir’s career path has become increasingly common among her Icelandic teammates.
“I think it always helps players to challenge themselves. If you train with the best, you will improve. So of course young players go abroad earlier to train with the best to the world, it’s really good,” she told DW.
Seventeen of the 23 women in Iceland’s Euro 2022 squad play abroad, the third highest rate at the tournament. When Iceland made their European Championship debut in 2009, only 10 members of their squad played for clubs outside the country.
Today, Iceland’s best performances are in England, Germany and the United States, as well as in top clubs in Sweden and Norway. This trend reflects a concerted effort to ensure young Icelandic players are tested at the highest level.
“I think it’s important that we have players who have been playing for a long time in the team and that we have young players who are still playing at a high level in Europe,” Glodís Perla Viggosdottir told DW.
The 27-year-old Bayern defender’s journey through club football is reminiscent of that of her veteran teammate. Viggosdottir left Iceland aged 16 for Denmark, then played in Sweden for more than half a decade before landing in Munich and playing an important role in Bayern’s 2021/22 Champions League campaign .
Glodis Viggosdottir has over 100 caps for Iceland.
While Icelandic national football has grown steadily, it simply cannot compete with the resources and infrastructure of the top leagues on the continent. Equipping young players to make the leap overseas keeps the national team competitive, even if Iceland are tournament underdogs.
The Italian method
The dark horses of Euro 2022 Italy has less exploratory instinct. Only one Italian plays club football outside of Italy, leaving them tied with two other nations for lowest at the Euros.
According to Juventus and Italian defender Lisa Boattin, this is linked to the rise of Serie A.
“We have known each other for many years and have cultivated this group. I think people can gain experience by going abroad, but at the moment women’s football in Italy has developed enormously. “showed in our performances in the Champions League. I think there’s a lot to be said about staying in Italy,” Boattin told DW.
The 25-year-old has spent her entire career in her home country. By the time Jonsdottir was the same age, she had already played college football in the United States and was playing professionally in Norway.
Italian coach Milena Bertolini, who has spent her entire playing and coaching career in Italy, says having the core of her team based in the same league gives her team cohesion.
“There are certainly advantages in the fact that those who play in Italy know each other well and have experienced a lot of action together [domestically ] on the ground,” she told DW.
Still, Bertolini acknowledges there can be downsides to an all-national team. “Going abroad is also important in terms of growth and development. You learn to play a different kind of football. So I think there are positives and negatives in both.”
It is certainly in favor of the Italian national team that Serie A is steadily improving. Next season the league has pledged to go fully professional and Juventus, where nine players from the Italian side play, reached the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time last season.
Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to international team development. Like Italy, Spain and England have also only brought one international player to the Euros and the three teams have had starkly different runs in the tournament so far.
Nevertheless, the most successful teams tend to have most of their players playing in the most competitive leagues. Given the massive investment that has gone into the Women’s Super League in recent years, it’s no coincidence that more Euro 2022 players are based in England than anywhere else.
When Iceland play in favor of Italy, they have a chance to upset and potentially secure a ticket to the quarter-finals for only the second time. If they can, it might just have something to do with how they built their team.
“We have players who play in Iceland, and they’re such a great addition to this team as well. I think it’s a mix of both. I think it brings a different aspect to the team, bringing the youngsters while keeping It gives a good balance,” said Jonsdottir, who has nearly 100 international caps to his name.
Icelandic players aren’t afraid to rack up air miles when they find club teams, but the national team isn’t so keen on using players based in other leagues as to shun those who are. play on their own shores. For a small nation, this balance of strategic flexibility might be enough to help Iceland punch above its weight.