Reigning world champions France travelled to the Laugardalsvollur Stadium in Reykjavik to face Iceland in a must-win UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier. Didier Deschamps’ side was second in Group H, level on points with group leaders Turkey. Both side had won five of their six games and were tied on 15 points. However, Turkey was leading the group due to a better head to head record against France. Deschamps' men needed to win to game, while hoping that Turkey failed against Albania in the other tie.
France was coming into the game high on confidence after two back-to-back wins against Andorra and Albania. Iceland, however, are no pushovers and were vying for the top 2 places themselves. An injury to midfielder Aron Gunnarson did jeopardise Erik Hamren’s plans in the build-up to the game. France had injury concerns of their own too as Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe were all ruled out. Deschamps was expecting N’Golo Kante to return to the starting line-up but the Chelsea midfielder picked up an injury in the warm-up. Nevertheless, the French manager still managed to put up a pretty competitive first eleven for the game.
France's Starting XI: Steve Mandanda; Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Clement Lenglet, Lucas Digne; Moussa Sissoko, Corentin Tolisso, Blaise Matuidi, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Kingsley Coman.
The visitors had control for the majority of the first half, while Iceland threatened to score on a couple of occasions. The first half ended 0-0, with both sides coming close to scoring on occasions. France picked up the pace in the second half and took the lead through Olivier Giroud’s penalty in the 66th minute. Even though the home side tried to equalise, France managed to hold on to the slender lead and took homw the three vital points. Here are five key talking points from the game.
#5 Iceland frustrate France by defending deep
Erik Hamren had a clear cut plan for the game. He set Iceland up to frustrate France by defending deep and staying compact at the back. The home side switched to a rigid 4-4-2 whenever the visitors got the ball and denied the opposition too much room to operate in the midfield.
They shut out the flanks and frustrated France for the majority of the first half. At one point in time, it even looked like they would come away with a point. However, they were undone by the penalty decision from Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi.