Gylfi Sigurdsson conceded Iceland’s Euro 2016 heroics caught up with them as they bowed out with a 5-2 quarter-final defeat to France at the Stade de France.
Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson named the same XI that secured draws with Portugal and Hungary before sensationally beating Austria and England, but tackling the hosts at the national stadium proved a bridge too far.
Olivier Giroud latched on to Blaise Matuidi’s lofted pass to break the deadlock after 12 minutes and Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and the superb Antoine Griezmann
were all on hand to conclude a bruising opening 45 minutes for Iceland.
Giroud completed his brace during the second half but Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Birkir Bjarnason ensured Icelandic pride remained intact by getting on the scoresheet.
“We were lacking a bit of power, a bit of energy during the first half. It was not the usual Icelandic performance,” Sigurdsson said.
“It was all about restoring some pride and giving the fans and the people back home a performance during the second half.
“France were 4-0 up at half-time and probably thinking about the next game, resting themselves and making sure they didn’t get injured.
“I’m not worried about winning the second half. We lost the game.”
The Swansea City midfielder added: “The way we played the first four games – playing very physically with high energy and defending really well – all of the games were played to the last second.
“We were hanging on in a few of the games, England and Austria. We never really had a game where we were 3-0 up and cruising so we could make some changes to rest players.
“I think that probably played in France’s favour because they have got a very big squad, had some good results and could rest some players.
“Apart from how good technically they were tonight, I think they had a lot more energy.”
Iceland’s fans contributed to a scintillating atmosphere in Saint-Denis, regularly launching into their now customary “Viking” chant.
Despite enjoying a resounding victory, France’s players had long left the field by the time Sigurdsson and his team-mates finished soaking up the acclaim from a vocal travelling contingent.
“That was the thing with all of the games – the fans have been incredible,” he said. “The scenes from back home have been amazing.
“If I wasn’t here I would probably want to be back home watching the games with the fans.
“Even though we lost they were celebrating and cheering us on. Those are the things you will remember for the rest of your life.”
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