Saturday, 4 July 2015

Åland Islands 0 v 2 Greenland

Monday 29th June 2015
Island Games Group A
La Coeffardiere, St Clement
Admission: Free
Programme: N/A
Attendance: 150 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3

To begin my second and final day at the Island Games 2015, I headed eastwards to the small village of St Clement, home of the most southerly football ground within the British Isles. After watching exclusively British islands during yesterday's two games, today I chose to watch a quirkier fixture, between two Nordic islands.

St Clement's football ground is about a ten minute walk eastwards from St Clement village, which itself is about a 20 minute bus journey eastwards from St Helier. Facilities are very basic at this very rural venue. A brick clubhouse straddles the half way line, while wooden railing extends along the opposite length, behind one goal and half way along the clubhouse side, with rope making up the rest of the length today. Tall hedges line the length opposite to the clubhouse and behind one of these goals, whilst greenhouses are located behind the clubhouse. Behind the remaining goal, the view is up towards the main road and steep rolling hills. It's a peaceful, tranquil, beautifully rural setting which was perfectly suited to a very warm and sunny day today.

Both islands have started this competition solidly, with Greenland claiming a 2-2 draw against Menorca, whilst the Åland Islands came from behind to beat Saaremaa 2-1. Greenland claimed the silver medal at the last Games in 2013, although only four teams entered that competition in Bermuda. Before that, they had finished no higher than eighth in the previous seven competitions, and had never won a medal. The Åland Islands claimed a silver in 2009, and bronze in 1989 and 1993, although they finished in fourth place in the 2011 games.

On a very warm, humid early afternoon, Greenland took the lead on 11 minutes, when the ball was played upfield, the keeper came out and Frederick Funch Jensen clipped the ball past the keeper and just inside the far post, with the goal greeted by loud, excitable cheering from the small band of Greenland supporters. Perhaps the best chance the Åland Islands had to get on the scoresheet all game came on 25 minutes, when a cross was whipped into the box and the header went just wide of the far post. A clear pattern was evident though of Åland Islands looking to play the better football, but Greenland were solid and workmanlike. The apparent better style of football certainly offered hope that Åland could unlock the Greenland defence in the second half.

However, despite a fiery team talk given by their English speaking coach at half time, and some loud cheering on from Åland sportswomen arriving during the first half, Åland Islands struggled to impose themselves in the second half, as Greenland looked more and more comfortable. Greenland had a great chance to double their lead two minutes after the break, when a free kick was played into the box, the keeper missed the ball in the air but the header dropped just wide. The Åland Islands players looked increasingly frustrated in the heat, and Greenland sealed the win ten minutes from time when a cross from the right was headed home from a central position eight yards out by substitute Malik Juhl. The Greenland players and officials celebrated wildly at the final whistle, to show just how much this win meant to them.

In their final group match, Greenland went on to beat Saaremaa, but it wasn't enough to top the group and qualify for the semi-finals, as Menorca also won, 3-1 against the Åland Islands, and went through on goal difference. They did claim fifth place overall though, by winning their 5th/6th play-off match against 2011 winners, the Isle of Wight. The Åland Islands qualified for the 9th/10th place play-off, claiming ninth place after beating Gibraltar on penalties after a goalless draw.

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