France end Iceland's Euro dream run to enter semis
Paris, July 4 (IANS) Iceland's fairytale run at the European football championship came to a crushing end as hosts France tamed them 5-2 in the quarter-final at the Stade de France here.
Iceland, who shocked England 2-1 in their last match, on Sunday found themselves 0-4 down by the time the break rolled around. And it was clear that Iceland were not going to prevail over the Euro tourney hosts, reports Xinhua.
They fell behind after only 12 minutes through a goal from France striker Olivier Giroud. The Arsenal player ran behind the Iceland back four onto a long pass from Blaise Matuidi and fired it low past keeper Hannes Halldorsson with his left foot.
Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba doubled France's lead eight minutes later by jumping highest to power home a header from the corner.
Two minutes before the interval, France pulled ahead with four goals. West Ham United forward Dimitri Payet scored his third goal of the tournament in the 43rd minute when he received the ball from Antoine Griezmann, dragged the ball onto his left and drilled it across the keeper into the bottom right corner.
In the 45th minute, Atletico Madrid forward Griezmann scored the fourth by himself, running onto the dummy from Giroud and lifting the ball over the advancing Halldorsson.
The goal took Griezmann to four in the tournament and he is now the highest scorer at Euro 2016.
Iceland settled down from the first half panic and pulled one back in the 56th minute through forward Kolbeinne Sigthorsson, who stabbed home his second of the tournament from a world-class Gylfi Sigurdsson cross.
But Giroud made it 5-1 three minutes later with a header as France regained the four-goal lead.
Iceland, the smallest country in history -- with a population of around 3,30,000 -- to have compete in a major tournament, refused to throw in the towel.
And their efforts paid off in the 84th minute when Birkir Bjarnason nodded in Ari Skulason's far-post cross into the bottom corner.
It was too late and too little but they can still leave the tournament with head held high.
Perhaps it was a foregone conclusion after all, given the fact that Iceland had never been able to defeat France in any of their 11 previous encounters, with France winning eight of them and the other three finishing as draws.
However, Iceland, coached by Heimir Hallgrimsson and Lars Lagerbäck -- who were loved and admired by all teams and coaches in the tourney -- will nevertheless go down in history since nobody thought that they could make it so far in the Euro competition.
Lars Lagerback, Iceland's joint coach, extended his congratulation to France and was happy with the dark-horse show during the tournament.
"They're a fantastic team and they made us look bad, even if we contributed to that. These four-and-a-half years have been a fantastic journey for me. With all the fans coming here and what we heard from back home, and all the positivity and interest -- I feel it deep in my heart. I've enjoyed every minute, except maybe the first 45 minutes today.
"We didn't handle it well mentally, but in the second half we showed it wasn't a physical problem. These are the games you have to learn from and we need to learn from this. This was a good reminder that you have to have the right attitude every second.
"If you look at the whole tournament, to reach the quarter-finals as a newcomer is absolutely fantastic. We didn't use our brains, but part of that might be France playing very well. We made mistakes and were too passive."
France will next face reigning world champions Germany in the semifinals while Wales take on Portugal.
France chief coach Didier Deschamps was very satisfied with the performance. "There are a lot of positives to take away from this evening and I am delighted for the players as they deserve this," he said.