France vs Iceland – Euro 2016 Quarter-Final Preview

After an unbeaten run which has taken them all the way to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, Iceland now have the biggest game in their footballing history to look forward to as they plot to sensationally end the challenge of hosts France.

Despite a superb qualifying campaign which only tailed off once a place in the finals had been secured, many expected Iceland to be among the rank outsiders for this tournament given their lack of pedigree, and the fact that it is a country with a tiny population in comparison to their rivals.

It is a fact that made it all the more embarrassing for England, who the side led by joint coaches Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson managed to conquer on an evening that can only be described as infamous. Win this one, and that achievement will be trumped.

A terrific display of defensive resilience and the ability to exploit their opponents’ weaknesses was the key to victory, with the two centre-backs Ragvar Sigurdsson and Kari Arnason performing heroics throughout the 90 minutes. Indeed, none of this Iceland team shirks responsibility, as well as the opportunity to put their bodies on the line.

Although they spent much of that last 16 match maintaining a defensive shape and happy to concede possession to a feeble and unimaginative England, the team ranked 34th in the world looked the more dangerous team on the break and probably created more chances in the second half than the hapless Three Lions.

It is likely to be a similar story here as France can expect to see a lot of the ball and exert a lot of pressure on a backline that will certainly relish the occasion, rather than approach it with fear. They will not be underestimated, in light of the failure of a growing queue of highly fancied teams which have failed to get the better of plucky Iceland.

And France will still feel that there is more to come from them in this competition, having laboured a little in reaching this stage. Coach Didier Deschamps is still scratching around for his best starting XI, while they have only been able to turn it on the style in fits and starts.

A case in point would be the four-minute period where Antoine Griezmann scored two well-taken goals to turn around an early deficit against the Republic of Ireland in the last round, a game where the hosts’ persistent knocking at the door eventually paid off.

In winning it for his side, Griezmann showed just how good a finisher he is, and should he escape the attention of the Iceland defence, he will be backed to take any chance that comes his way. This will be a challenge for France due to the weight of expectation on their shoulders as well as the probable need to be patient in order to break down the inevitably stubborn resistance.

For all of Iceland’s achievements so far it would be the biggest shock of all if they were to win this one, but they cannot be written off. One thing that is for sure, however, is that should France score early, they would not make the same punishing mistakes that England did.

Related posts

Leave a Comment