France surged into the semi-finals of Euro 2016 as they ended Iceland’s fairytale run in brutal fashion with a 5-2 win at the Stade de France on Sunday.
Iceland stunned the football world by coming from behind to beat England 2-1 in the last 16, but were run ragged by France, Didier Deschamps’ side easing through to book a last-four meeting with Germany in Marseille on Thursday.
Blaise Matuidi set up Olivier Giroud to break the deadlock and the floodgates quickly opened, France 4-0 up by half-time. Paul Pogba answered some of his critics by heading in France’s second and fine finishes from Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann had them in complete command by the interval.
Debutants Iceland restored some pride through Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s close-range finish before Giroud added his second of the night for France, who head to the Stade Velodrome to take on the world champions with significant momentum. Birkir Bjarnason pulled another back with eight minutes left, but the damage had long since been done.
The rout began in the 12th minute by Giroud’s second goal of the tournament.
Matuidi clipped a well-weighted ball into the path of Giroud, who finished superbly as he fired through the legs of Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson.
Against England Iceland responded almost immediately to falling behind, but France refused to allow them a route back into the game and the hosts’ advantage was doubled eight minutes later through Pogba’s towering header.
The midfielder has been criticised for his performances at the tournament, but demonstrated his athleticism as he rose highest to thump Griezmann’s corner home.
Undeterred, Iceland went close to halving the deficit, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson narrowly turning over after latching on to Sigthorsson’s flick-on from a long throw.
A Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick almost surprised Hugo Lloris, but any hope of a remarkable Iceland turnaround was extinguished in a devastating spell shortly before half-time.
Payet continued his excellent tournament by arrowing a strike into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the area to make it 3-0.
And Griezmann piled on further misery for Iceland as he was slipped through on goal, netting France’s fourth with a sublime lob over a helpless Halldorsson.
Sigthorsson turned in Sigurdsson’s near-post ball in 11 minutes after the restart, yet that was only brief respite for Iceland as Halldorsson was caught in two minds, allowing Giroud to divert a Payet free-kick into the net.
Sverrir Ingason drew a stunning save from Lloris before Bjarnason gave the Iceland fans one final reason to cheer by nodding in Ari Skulason’s cross, but it is France that take another step towards a first major tournament triumph in 16 years.
Key Opta stats:
– France have scored five headed goals at Euro 2016 – a record by a team in a single Euro finals tournament.
– Olivier Giroud has scored 10 goals in his last nine starts for France.
– A devastating opening 45 minutes paved the way for France to become the first team to score four goals in the first half of a European Championship finals match.
– Paul Pogba scored his first goal for France since October 2014 – this after 16 appearances without one for his country.
– Iceland became the first team in history to name an unchanged starting XI in their opening five games of a Euro finals tournament.
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