Faroe Islands September Review: As the September European Qualifiers come to an end, the Faroe Islands were on the end of two 4-0 defeats at the hands of Sweden and Spain.
But despite the identical scorelines, both matches told extremely different stories.
On the back of the improved performance against Norway in June, expectations were high in front of the vibrant Tórsvøllur crowd.
However, these hopes were all but dashed in the first 25 minutes, with Sweden finding themselves 3-0 up due to some horrific Faroese defending. Things got even worse, and an embarrassing scoreline was on the cards, as the Faroe Islands limped into the half-time break 4-0 behind.
Fortunately, Sweden showed more mercy in the second half, and the rest of the game was played akin to a training match, as the scoreline remained 4-0. Still, this compounding result was the Faroes biggest home defeat in nearly three years (the 6-0 defeat to European Champions Portugal), as the famed home fortress was truly broken.
The first half was by far the worst half of football I have witnessed in my four years of watching the national side and probably goes long before my viewership. The last time the national men’s side found themselves as many goals behind at half-time was a staggering 13 years ago (6-0 away defeat against Scotland, which was 5-0 at half-time).
On a positive note, the first half against Spain was in stark contrast. With Spain finding themselves just the 1 goal ahead at half-time, a half which produced the best half of football the Faroes Islands have played this calendar year. With some neat passing patterns and a well structured defensive shape as well. The game again ended with a 4-0 defeat, but the scoreline did not tell the whole story, and two late Spanish goals did flatter them a bit.
As now is the time for reflection in preparation for the vital October qualifiers, I have compiled some positives and negatives from these round of fixtures:
- Heini Vatnsdal: A player I have always called to be selected more, Heini came in on at half-time in the Sweden hammering and certainly shored up the defensive line, which contributed to a clean sheet in the second half. He started the next match against Spain and look composed and well organised. The Faroese recent defensive fragilities are well documented, and surely Heini is worth a run in the starting line up, on the back of two impressive displays.
- Jóannes Bjartalíð: On his full debut against Spain, Jóannes was a constant thorn in a world-class defence, and was denied a lovely goal thanks to a smart save from De Gea. Such a brave performance on debut was impressive, and hopefully a sign of things to come from the KÍ Klaksvík starlet.
- Passing patterns: Some of the interlinking one-touch passing against Spain was a joy to watch, and hopefully against weaker opposition would be a more punishing threat.
- Tactics: Several of Lars Olsen’s tactical decisions left a lot to be desired. Starting Rógvi Baldvinsson and Atli Gregersen together at centre back against Sweden was a recipe for disaster, and was equally exploited by the Swedes. Another example of poor managerial tactics was the defensive decision to bring on Magnus Egilsson for Klæmint Olsen when two goals down. Olsen was a huge physical threat up front, and changing him and the formation meant that the Faroe Islands defense got deeper, and as a result, Spain scored two late goals.
- Goals: Two more games, and no goals, the lack of goals is becoming an alarming theme for the side, with just five goals scored in the last 10 games. Putting this into context, in the previous 10 matches before that the Faroe Islands had scored nine goals, nearly double on the current return.
- Leaky defense: Eight goals conceded in two games is poor for any side, but that is just a small sample of the ongoing poor defensive displays. In 2019 so far, the Faroe Islands have conceded a massive 22 goals (in six matches). This is a damming statistics, especially when you compare it to recent years. Between November 2016 and November 2018 the national side had conceded just 21 goals (in 15 matches). To concede more goals in just 9 months compared to the previous 2 years is a dismaying fact, which shows the genuine defensive regression in the team.
Two defeats against Sweden and Spain did not come as a shock, but how they happened certainly do. Two easy defeats (especially the home loss to Sweden) is concerning for any side. When you look at the other so-called ‘minnow’ nations results, such as Malta narrowing losing 1-0 away to Romania and Liechtenstein getting a draw away to Greece, you can’t help but feel some envy and even a cause for concern as the Faroe Islands have built up a budding reputation on the international scene in recent years.
A recent regression and other nations vast improvement might see them slide down before too long, and action must be taken as soon as possible to stop the rot.