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Iceland coach jabs at USWNT’s ‘long-ball’ style

USWNT coach Jill Ellis. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

USWNT coach Jill Ellis. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

There’s nothing like a little honesty in life.

Iceland coach Frey Alexandersson had plenty of it on Monday after his team’s scoreless draw with the United States. The U.S. has struggled to impress many neutral observers over the past year, with concerns having heightened in recent months after concerning losses to Brazil and France as well as unconvincing victories over England and Norway.

Monday’s 0-0 draw with Iceland adds to the worry for the U.S. women, who continue to say they aren’t worrying (“Everyone just relax,” U.S. forward Abby Wambach told media before the tournament).

But Iceland, who won’t be at the World Cup and probably couldn’t care less about motivating the United States, thinks the U.S. women should be worried.

“If this was my team I would be very unhappy,’’ Alexandersson told Fox Sports.

“We forced them to play the long ball since after watching their first two games, we saw that when they get under pressure they tend to resort to the long ball. I don’t understand it because they can play the ball on the grass. I would expect a team 20 seeds (ahead of us in the world rankings) would trash us.’’

Jill Ellis’ response was, essentially, to look at the scoreboard (goose eggs on the day, but the U.S. is headed to the final against France on Wednesday).

“Maybe he’s unhappy because his team is at the bottom of the group,’’ she said. Ellis was not pleased with Iceland’s physicality, according to the Fox Sports report. Some of it is evident in the highlights above, including Iceland’s Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir appearing to sort of headbutt U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd.

“I think Iceland’s strategy was definitely to frustrate us and not let us set the pace of the game,” U.S. forward Alex Morgan said. “It was choppy but we knew that with a tie we could be in the final and we’re happy to be play for the championship now.”

Hard feelings aside, the U.S. women now hope a rematch against France — their second meeting in a month — will bring a better result. France is unquestionably the best team in the world right now, having beaten the United States, Brazil, Germany and Japan over the past five months.

“We hate losing, so we’re still obviously disappointed in the result when we were in France,” U.S. midfielder Heather O’Reilly said. “It’s nice that a month later we get to see them again and hopefully turn that result around.”

Once again, though, the formula of sitting in, frustrating the United States and even getting physical proved successful. Expect to see more of that this spring and summer — just not from France on Wednesday.

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