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Women's Football News
The fourteenth edition of the Island Games is taking place on the Isle of Wight this week and ten of the competing islands have women's football teams entered.
Three intense days of completion, two in heatwave conditions, have left four teams with a chance of medals, of whom two are from the British Isles. The Western Isles of Scotland and the Isle of Man carry domestic hopes but face a formidable rival.
The other teams in Thursday's semi final are the 2009 winners Aland, home to the current Finnish champions Aland United, who have players with Champions League experience and Greenland who finished best runners-up after an 8-0 win over Gibraltar.
Host team Isle of Wight faced a stiff challenge to reach the medal stage. Drawn in the only four team group with Aland, Jersey and the team of North Norwegian island of Hitra (total population 4,000), all teams had to play on three successive days.
Following an opening day win over Hitra, Wight took on favourites Aland at Brading on Monday and fell behind in the third minute to a powerful strike from the edge of the area by Rebecca Bjorkvall. The Finnish team dominated possession going down the slope and it took a lot of hard work from the locals to avoid falling further behind.
However, despite still having less of the ball, Wight managed to fashion a crucial equaliser from
Danielle Merryfield who headed in a free kick from close range. Protecting keeper Nicky Beck really well, the hosts were delighted to hold out for a very creditable 1-1 draw.
This result meant that the final Group A games could decide potential medallists. Jersey had lost 5-0 to Aland but bounced back on Monday morning with a 6-1 win over a brave Hitra team who played far better than the scoreline suggests in baking weather at Oakfield, Ryde far removed from conditions in their native island on the Arctic Circle. Hot shot Jodie Botterill scored a delightful hat-trick for the Channel Islanders but the best goal of the day came from Hitra, a stunning 40-yarder from Nina Antonsen which was celebrated by their small but enthusiastic supporters group.
Tuesday saw an all Scandinavian clash (Aland 6 Hitra 0) and a crucial Channel derby potentially for a semi final place. Both British teams needed a win to qualify as the uneven group numbers meant that their victories over Hitra would be ignored in deciding the best runners-up position. Cooler conditions were welcome as the teams contested their third match in 48 hours, but a 2-2 draw eliminated both teams from medal contention. Botterill struck to give Jersey the lead but the hosts replied through Merryfield and Samantha Hayles before Rebecca Darts levelled right on half time. Neither side could find a winner and both will contest play-offs for placngs on Thursday.
Isle of Man and Western Isles dominated Groups B and C to seal semi final places on Thursday against each other and ensure domestic interest in the final on Friday. Greenland face the tricky task of denying Aland a final slot..
While a much more high profile tournament naturally grabs the headlines, the Island Games will reach its own Final on Friday with a midday kick off at Cowes Sports F.C.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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