Hosts France will look to ride on local hopes to gain a place in the Euro 2016 semi-finals when they take on surprise package Iceland. This quarter-finals match will take place at the Stade de France on Sunday, July 3.
France were always expected to go deep in the tournament, not just because they are hosts but because of their squad quality. They were pushed to the limits by Republic of Ireland in the round of 16 and required the brilliance of Antoine Griezmann to get back into the game. Robbie Brady scored from a penalty early in the game to silence the hosts’ supporters and stun the French team. Didier Deschamps’ men were left frustrated for more than an hour and until Griezmann scored a brace within three minutes in the second half, France were chasing shadows. But the goals sprung France to life and they dominated proceedings till the end. They could have won by a bigger margin but for their finishing. Things haven’t been easy for them even in the group stages too with France relying on the magic of Dimitri Payet to win against Romania and the goals from substitutes to win against Switzerland.
Iceland have already done the unthinkable by being the giant killers of the Euros. They were undefeated in the group phase and finished second, ahead of Portugal and Austria. But the bigger shock was reserved for England in the round of 16. England started as heavy favorites and went ahead through an early Wayne Rooney penalty. But Iceland came back with goals from Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson putting them ahead. From then on, it was the tactical assuredness and defensive awareness of Iceland that was on full show. Although England were equally guilty of being ineffective, the win was a testament of Iceland’s grit. Without a doubt Iceland have been fantastic right from the qualifiers where they overcame Netherlands to becoming the neutrals’ favorite at the Euros.
France may be favorites for this tie but they are up against the giant killing of Iceland. Complacency can be their biggest enemy that could prove extremely troublesome. Don’t be surprised if Iceland spring another surprise.
France are unbeaten in their last eight matches with just the draw against Switzerland blotting their perfect record during this period.
Iceland are unbeaten in the Euros and have lost just once in their last seven encounters that included two draws against Hungary and Portugal.
Key players and team news
France will have a host of issues to address with Adil Rami and N’Golo Kante suspended for this encounter. Kingsley Coman recovered from his knock and is available to start for the hosts. Olivier Giroud could also get the nod ahead of Anthony Martial while Yohan Cabaye could start in place of Kante. Deschamps could spring a surprise by starting Samuel Umtiti in Rami’s place instead of Eliaquim Mangala.
Iceland have no enforced changes to make and will continue to line up in their usual formation and try to stifle the hosts. Watch out for the Iceland captain and long-throw specialist Aron Gunnarsson who has already assisted twice in the tournament from similar situations.
France scored in 12 of their last 14 games while conceding in eight of those. They were able to manage two clean sheets in the Euros but the absence of Rami and Kante could add spark to Iceland’s attacks. Iceland scored for 13 games in a row while conceding in 11 games during that period. Backing goals from both sides look a safe bet.
Griezmann has been in great form for France in this Euros with three goals from four games so far. Backing him to find the net may not be an entirely bad option. Pogba hasn’t yet set the world alight with his performances in the Euros but expect the playmaker to come to life in important games. Back him to put up a man of the match performance.
Gylfi Sigurdsson is one of the very few recognizable names in Iceland team and has backed it up with consistent performances so far in the Euros. There definitely are more goals from the playmaker than the one he scored till now. Back him to find the net any time in the game.
Both sides to score at odds of 2.5 with William Hill.