Euro 2016: France thrash Iceland 5-2 with first-half blitzkrieg, seal semi-final spot
France defeated Iceland 5-2 in the fourth UEFA Euro 2016 quarter-final at the Stade de France in Paris on Sunday night to book a spot in the semi-final. The hosts had taken a 4-0 lead in the first half itself as Iceland looked a pedestrian side – a stark contrast to the team that beat England. Les Bleus will now face Germany in the semis on 7 July.
France: Lloris, Sagna, Koscielny, Umtiti, Evra, Matuidi, Pogba, Sissoko, Griezmann, Payet, Giroud
Iceland: Halldorsson, Saevarsson, R Sigurdsson, Gudmundsson, Bjarnason, Sigthorsson, G Sigurdsson, Arnason, Bodvarsson, Gunnarsson, Skulason
Les Bleus lined up in their traditional 4-2-3-1 system with Samuel Umtiti making his debut as he partnered with Laurent Koscielny at the back. Moussa Sissoko also started on the right with Antoine Griezmann playing behind Giroud. Iceland started with the same side that beat England and stuck to their 4-4-2 formation that had served them so well
France race to 4-0 lead in first-half
In the pouring rain in Paris, the players struggled to find their footing on the pitch at the Stade de France. Iceland were wary with nine players on yellow cards and one more booking away from missing a possible semi-final game but they soon got into their groove and did ping a few passes around.
However, France finally broke their hoodoo of not having scored in the first half of the tournament when they took the lead in the 12th minute. Unable to find a way through two lines of Icelandic players, Matuidi simply opted to bypass them all with a lob over the defence. Olivier Giroud managed to stay onside and was through on goal where he fired in a low shot that went through Halldorsson’s legs to find the back of the net.
Minutes later, it was 2-0. Griezmann sent in a corner kick, which he had won himself, and the ball was floated dangerously towards the edge of the six-yard box and Paul Pogba rose above everyone to direct a powerful header on target which even the man stationed at the post could not clear.
Iceland almost pulled one back through one of their trademark long throw-ins from Gunnarsson. Sigthorsson managed to get on the end of it and flick it on to Bodvarsson who was under pressure from Umtiti to get a shot off. Unfortunately, the shot sailed over the crossbar but the warning signs were clear; Iceland were not going to roll over on the big stage.
Then came the devastating double-whammy before half-time. The first saw Giroud knock down a cross to Griezmann who laid it off for Dimitri Payet to fire into the bottom corner to make it 3-0. Two minutes later, Giroud’s dummy allowed Pogba to release Griezmann who beat Iceland’s high line and chipped the onrushing Halldorsson to make it 4-0.
Goals galore in second half
It took Iceland only 10 minutes to open their account when Kolbeinn Sigthorsson made it 4-1. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s cross from the right saw Sigthorsson pounce at the near post to poke it past Hugo Lloris to deny the hosts a clean sheet.
But if that goal gave Iceland any sort of hope, it was quickly dashed when France got their fifth. A free-kick from 40 yards out saw Payet send in a lethal delivery and Giroud did the rest by heading it past a flailing and helpless Halldorsson. Any hopes of a comeback were quickly extinguished in three manic minutes.
With a semi-final against Germany coming up, Didier Deschamps hooked off his two players on yellow cards – Giroud and Koscielny. Andre-Pierre Gignac and Eliaquim Mangala took their place although Gignac’s touches in the box left a lot to be desired after Giroud’s performance.
Iceland did have one last throw of the dice when Birkir Bjarnason managed to get one more attempt to beat Lloris. A cross from the left flank saw the FC Basel midfielder direct a header past the diving Lloris to make it 5-2.
Ultimately, the first-half capitulation was too much for Iceland to recover from. As the full-time whistle blew, the home crowd erupted as their players celebrated, albeit with much less fervour, while the Iceland players sank to their knees.
But the game ended on a good note as both sets of fans joined in the Iceland thunderclap – a perfect way for Iceland to sign off from the tournament after having won the respect of fans worldwide. An epic semi-final awaits as a weakened Germany side take on the hosts.