A bittersweet match for the neutrals but both teams have much to take away from this last quarterfinal.
July 3, 2016
Stade de France, St Denis
France 5 – 2 Iceland
Lloris, Sagna, Koscielny (Mangala, 72’), Umtiti, Evra, Matuidi, Pogba, Sissoko, Griezmann, Payet (Coman, 80’), Giroud (Gignac 60’)
Halldorsson, Saevarsson, Arnason (Ingason, 46’), R Sigurdsson, Skulason, Gudmundsson, G. Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson, B Bjarnason, Sigthorsson (Gudjohnsen, 83’), Bodvarsson (Finnbogasson, 46’)
A sea of blue and pouring rain greeted both teams as they entered the stadium for this last quarterfinal. Spirits were high for both set of fans and the match started with good action by both teams. Iceland came out of the blocks ready to go with an early shot by Sigurdsson and Saeversson sent Gudmundsson a great pass which he could not control. France too showed some beautiful passing early on and both Lloris and Halldorsson had work to do within minutes of the starting whistle.
However, France took control thirteen minutes in. Matuidi send a great flying pass and Giroud’s perfectly timed run had France ahead in the thirteenth minute.
Not even seven minutes later, Paul Pogba scored a great header off a corner by Griezmann. Pogba got great height and great power behind the ball. Zonal marking may have been to fault on this goal but that’s to take nothing away from the goal itself. Iceland’s Bodvarsson did get a touch on the ball in the 24th minute but under pressure from Umtiti, he rushed and flicked it over the cross bar. After that, France maintained most of the possession for longer and longer stretches of time. Fans of Iceland hoped for the team to make it to half time to regroup but France gave a one two sucker punch with goals from Payet and Griezmann in the 43rd and 45th minute. Both were lovely goals. Payet’s came from a series of passes. Giroud gave Payet a very pretty ball, which he notched precisely into the net. Griezmann’s came with a good run and he just notched it over the oncoming keeper to end the half with a fourth goal.It would seem near impossible for the Icelandic team to come back but they nor their fans never gave up the fight. Throughout both halves, the Viking chants and cheers persisted. This Irish fan appreciated the strong fan base support. And the support was not in vain. Sigthorsson received a near post cross from Sigurdsson and sent it past Lloris for a goal in the 56th minute.But France would not take that lying down and Giroud scored three minutes later from a nice pass from Payet and was almost immediately subbed off for Gignac. Giroud was on a yellow and rather than risk a semi final suspension, he would have to forgo any dreams of a hat trick.
Iceland’s two half time subs had two looks on goal. Finnbogsson tried a quick shot but it was not on target and Ingason had a strong header that forced a nice save by the French keeper. It was very clear that the Icelandic players were not laying down their swords until the bitter end. My favorite, young Ned Stark lookalike Bjarnasson had the final goal of the match in the 83rd minute with a good header into the net from a Skulason cross. Even in the 87th minute, Saevarsson raced with a good shot on net. It quite possibly may have beaten Lloris but French sub Mangala prevented the third Icelandic and 8th goal of the match from getting in. And France are off to Marseille to meet Germany on Thursday. This performance will do them well as they showed good possession and team understanding. They will be sure to face a much stronger opponent in Germany but this will give them some confidence going into the match.
And they leave with an excellent reminder from Iceland. France will surely remember to keep their foot on the pedal as Iceland was able to take advantage of moments when France might have been coasting. The Germans will be looking for those moments as well and will surely capitalize.
I personally am very sorry to see Iceland go home but they leave in the best possible way. Not once did they give up. They stood by each other and worked their game plan as best as possible. Captain Gunnarsson, apparently playing in some pain, rallied his troops and their fan base cheered them from start to finish. Iceland has won quite a few fans during this tournament. I look forward to watching them in the future.
On to the semis!