THE STARTING XI:
This was France’s 80th game at the beautiful Stade de France.
If it’s one thing Didier Deschamps got right in this match was the tactical approach. Prior to the game, I said that DD had to deal with the long ball approach from Iceland and he did just that, on this cold and rainy evening.
The French kicked off this match yet to score a goal in the first half, but they were brimming with confidence where Iceland was eager, shaky, and nervous. Eager, because they were playing without concentration looking for that early goal against the French. In the 12th minute, Blaise Matuidi played a beautiful ball over the top which Olivier Giroud got on the end of, left footing it under Halldórsson for the opener!
It was his 9th goal in 9 games.
Eight minutes later, Griezmann lashes a ball into the area from a beautiful corner. Pogba outjumps everyone and headed in for a 2-0 lead.
In the 40th minute, Lloris prevents a Nordic danger by palming the ball up then catching it. In the 42nd minute, Sagna plays a lovely ball, Giroud knocks it down for Griezmann, who lays it off for Payet and BAM! Payet slots home the 3rd goal with a wicked left foot.
And if the French were trying to make a statement about 3 goals being overrated before half-time, two minutes later, Pogba plays a fine ball up the field, Giroud allows it to run through his legs, allowing Griezmann to cheekily chip the goalie for the 4th goal just before half-time.
Les Bleus started the second half with the same urgency and consistency from the first half, but somewhere along the way, they became slow and lazy, as if they had a huge dinner and just wanted to go to sleep. This allowed Iceland to gain momentum back and they snatched one in the 56th minute through Sigthórsson.
This shook Les Bleus up a bit, and two minutes later, Payet plays a ridiculous ball in, Giroud rose, met the ball head-on and tucked the wicked header away for a 5-1 lead.
One minute later, Giroud was replaced by Gignac. Lloris made a great save in the 63rd minute at point-blank range to deny Iceland. Koscielny was replaced in the 71st minute allowing Mangala to get his 8th cap for the team, but his first in a competitive game. Umtiti was yellow-carded in the 74th minute. Payet made way for Coman in the 79th. Then Bjarnasson scored a cool goal in the 83rd minute, giving Iceland a second.
Iceland’s scoring campaign started and ended with Bjarnasson. Two minutes of extra time was added on, but there wouldn’t be any more goals to come. 5-2 in France’s favor and they get to meet the Germans in the semi-finals on Thursday. Can we do it? I hope so. I really hope we can pull this off and reach the final. I fancy a Wales v France final, but I feel Portugal v France will be the last game.
I’ve supported Iceland from the get-go and I wished they could’ve make it to the finals, but their dreams stop here. The most important thing is that they worked hard and they had a wonderful team spirit which eventually give their fans something to believe in. I am certain that prior to the tournament, the fans didn’t believe that their country would’ve made it this far, but now, they have players they can look up to and be proud of.
Thank you, Iceland.
^ Griezmann’s goal was the 100th goal of the Euro 2016 tournament.
^ France became the first team to score 4 goals in the first half of the Euro. Talk about history!
^ France is now the leading goalscorers of the Euro: Griezmann (4), Payet (3), Giroud (3). This is the first time that one team has multiple players in the race for the Golden Boot.
^ Giroud was named Man of the Match