Euro 2016 | France crush Iceland’s fairytale run to enter semis

Euro 2016 | France crush Iceland’s fairytale run to enter semis

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An emphatic display of football from France ended Iceland’s fairytale run in the 2016 Euro on Sunday after the host nation defeated them 5-2 in the quarter-final. Olivier Giroud’s brace and goals from Pogba, Payet, and Griezmann helped the hosts set up a semi-final clash with World Champs Germany.

Starting Lineups:

France (4-2-3-1/4-4-3): Lloris; Sagna, Koscielny, Umtiti, Evra; Pogba, Matuidi; Sissoko, Griezmann, Payet; Giroud

Iceland (4-4-2): Halldorsson; Saevarsson, Amason, R Sigurdsson, Skulason; Gudmundsson, Gunnarsson, G Sigurdsson, B Bjarnason; Sigthorsson, Bodvarsson

The host nation survived a scare against the Republic of Ireland in the last-16 match before entering the quarter-finals on the back of a brace from Antoine Griezmann. However, central defender Adil Rami and defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante was not as lucky as their teammates after they picked up their second yellow cards of the tournament in the last match to miss the quarter-final encounter. Barcelona-bound defender Samuel Umtiti made his international debut for the Les Bleus, while Newcastle United midfielder Moussa Sissoko also came into the team as Didier Deschamps continued with the 4-3-3 formation that they used against Ireland.

On the other hand, Iceland had stunned England to reach uncharted territories in the Euro. The World No. 34 side continued with the same side that they fielded in every match in the tournament after captain and long-throw specialist Aron Gunnarsson, who was suffering from a back problem, was passed fit. Nine of their players were one caution away from a suspension, but Iceland joint-coaches Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson’s thinking was all about the job in front of them.

France reign supreme

The hosts were the overwhelming favourites to progress to the semi-final and they made sure that there was no slip-up like the game against Ireland. Although Iceland had a good start to the match, with Gylfi Sigurdsson and Gudmundsson having a go at the goal, it all changed very quickly at the Stade de France.

Olivier Giroud, who scored the opening goal of the tournament, put the home side ahead in the 12th minute with a left-footed strike into the far corner. The ease at which France scored the goal would have been the biggest disappointment to the Iceland fans. A simple ball over the top of the Iceland defence from Blaise Matuidi from the half-way line paved the way for the Arsenal forward to apply the finishing touches.

The goal broke Iceland’s rhythm and even before they could recover France doubled their lead. Griezmann’s flat corner from the right went straight to Paul Pogba and the Juventus midfielder rose above Bodvarsson to produce a thumping header to beat Hannes Halldorsson from six yards.

A rout in the first half

Although they conceded two inside the first twenty minutes, Iceland fans kept faith in their team, having seen the team coming back to win games after conceding in the tournament. But all hopes went up in smokes by the time the half ended as France turned on their style to end Iceland’s fairytale run.

Dimitri Payet, who has been France’s player of the tournament, scored his third of the tournament in 43rd minute after a string of quick passes in front of the Iceland defence. Griezmann was once again the provider as he passed the ball to the West Ham from inside the box and after a bit of trickery to move the ball into his left foot, Payet unleashed a low shot into the bottom left corner to put his name on the scoresheet.

Having set up two, Griezmann deserved to be among the goals and he finally put one into the back of the net just before the end of the half with a glorious dink over the keeper. Koscielny’s flat pass from the back set up the goal with Giroud letting the ball go to Griezmann and the Atletico Madrid forward did the rest to put France ahead by four.

4-0 and that was that for Iceland with forty-five minutes remaining in the match.

Iceland ignite hope, but France crush it

After the 4-0 rout in the first half, nobody was talking about a comeback from Iceland, instead, everyone was thinking about the embarrassment in store for the island nation. With one foot already in the semis, France took a laid-back approach initially in the second half, allowing Iceland more of the ball. It proved to be a big error from the hosts as Kolbeinn Sigthorsson pulled one back for Iceland in the 56th minute. Gylfi Sigurdsson produced a curling cross from the right into the box and Sigthorsson ran in to head home the ball from close range.

The comeback was on, but three minutes later it all ended with Olivier Giroud scoring his second of the game. The Arsenal forward, who has been good in the air all throughout the match, restored the four-goal lead with a thumping header from a Payet free-kick. It was 5-1 and with the match done and dusted, Didier Deschamps decided to replace Giroud with Andre-Pierre Gignac with a semi-final against Germany in the horizon.

Iceland pulled one more back in the 84th minute through Bjarnason’s header as they showed their spirit even when it looked over. But, France saw out the rest of the game to set up an entry into the last four to take on the World Champions. 

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