Iceland hearts broken as France wins 5-2 to reach Euro 2016 semi-final
Iceland’s remarkable Euro 2016 campaign came to an end as they fell to a 5-2 defeat to host-nation France in an entertaining quarter-final match in Saint-Denis.
France controlled large parts of the game and put in a superb first-half performance that saw them go in 4-0 up at the break. Iceland came into the game more in the second half and scored twice, but France also scored again to ensure they ran out comfortable 5-2 winners.
The result sends France through to a semi-final clash against Germany at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Thursday.
For Iceland, it brings to an end a wonderful run at a tournament in which they defied expectations.
Appearing for the first time in a major tournament finals, the Icelanders have captured headlines and hearts around the world through their determined style of play and the vociferous support of their fans.
The nation with a population of just 330,000 had progressed to the quarter-final stage following an unbeaten three matches in the group stage and a historic win against England in the first knockout round.
This time, however, Iceland came up against a France team which, roared on by a partisan home crowd, proved too full of attacking verve for the Icelandic defense.
Striker Olivier Giroud gave France the lead on 12 minutes after latching on to a through ball and firing between the legs of Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldórsson from 8 yards out.
France doubled the lead eight minutes later when midfielder Paul Pogba powered in a header at the back post from an Antoine Griezmann corner.
Dimitri Payet made it 3-0 on 43 minutes with a left-footed strike from outside the box, and Griezmann added a fourth just moments later when he ran through to chip the ball over advancing Iceland ‘keeper Halldórsson.
Iceland was more of a threat in the second half and got the goal their efforts deserved on 56 minutes when Kolbeinn Sigthórsson poked in a cross.
Although the French lead was restored to four goals just three minutes later when Giroud connected with a free-kick to head past Halldórsson, Iceland refused to give up, and grabbed another goal on 84 minutes through midfielder Birkir Bjarnason to make it 5-2.
It was a hugely entertaining game in which Iceland more than played their part, and their fans, as always, gave a fantastic account of themselves with numerous performances of their famous Viking hand clap.
Ultimately though it proved a step too far for Iceland, as they came up against a France team that is starting to look like the side that so many have tipped to win the tournament.
The French have clicked into gear at the right time and Didier Deschamps’ men will be in confident mood when they face Germany in Marseille on Thursday – with the winners of that game surely being favorites for victory in Sunday’s final at the Stade de France.
The other semi-final sees Wales take on Portugal in Lyon on Wednesday, with the Welsh now flying the flag as the tournament’s underdogs.
Iceland, despite the heavy defeat, can hold their heads up high after a superb tournament that will live long in the memory for the country, its fans, and millions of others around the world.