European Championship quarter-final
France 5-2 Iceland
France progresses to the semi-finals
France dazzlingly ended Iceland’s fairytale run in the European Championship to set up a mouth-watering encounter against Germany in the semi-finals of the tournament.
The host nation was comfortable throughout the match and appeared to have rediscovered their best form after several stuttering performances.
12 minutes passed from the starting whistle when the first goal came for France. Blaise Matuidi curves a fine pass over the top to Olivier Giroud, who strikes a low ball into the net with a first-time shot. Paul Pogba then doubled it 7 minutes after with a header.
Then two more goals before the break swiftly vanquish any hopes for a trademark Icelandic comeback. Dimitri Payet scored with a precise low strike, before Antoine Griezmann chips it past Hannes Halldorsson. It was 4-0 to France before half-time, a stroll in the park for Les Blues.
But the Icelanders, having shown spirit throughout, were not done. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson stabbed home at the near post from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s cross. Intent on snuffing a spark before a flame spreads, Giroud heads in a free-kick to restore the four-goal lead for France, restoring their four-goal advantage.
Thus, it was nothing more than a consolation as Birkir Bjarnason heads in Iceland’s second with six minutes left.
In many sense, and aside from Wales’s progression to the semi-finals, France’s victory appears to be a sign that natural order is being restored; a genuine contender wrestling away what little budding dreams the small island nation had been allowed to grow throughout the past few weeks.
However, Iceland have every reason to be proud; with barely over 330, 000 under their flag they had won over the hearts of so many under so short a time.
It was a slightly disappointing note in which to end their happy run, but as their fans’ Viking chant defiantly echoed at Stade de France long after the final whistle, anyone can tell that it was not over for the little country. And none could ever take away the sheer immensity of their achievement.