France ends Iceland’s fairy tale to earn Euro Cup semi with Germany

Monday, Jul 4, 2016,11:13 IST By metrovaartha A A A

Hosts France are through to their first UEFA European Championship semi-final since 2000 after a thoroughly assured 5-2 win brought Iceland’s remarkable run to a close.

The debutants had reached this quarter-final stage by stunning England in the last 16, but there was no chance of a repeat as Les Bleus took an early stranglehold to set up a last-four showdown with Germany. Criticised for their slow starts at UEFA EURO 2016, this time France were merciless, racing into a 4-0 lead with their first four goals in an opening period at these finals.

Olivier Giroud broke the deadlock, hammering a left-footed effort between Hannes Halldórsson’s legs after an excellent lobbed pass from Blaise Matuidi. Taking nothing for granted, France kept the pressure levels high and struck again when Paul Pogba climbed above Jón Dadi Bödvarsson to head in an Antoine Griezmann corner.

Bödvarsson almost conjured a response, firing over from close range following an Aron Gunnarsson long throw, but this was a day when chances had to be taken. The hosts were certainly burying theirs, and smooth interplay between Moussa Sissoko, Giroud and Griezmann teed up Dimitri Payet to drill in his third goal of the tournament.

That took Payet level with Griezmann – briefly. Moments later, Giroud put the faintest of touches onto a Pogba through ball and Griezmann chipped delightfully over Halldórsson. That, essentially, was that, although Kolbeinn Sigthórsson slid in to restore a little Icelandic pride after the restart before Giroud nodded in his second from a Payet free-kick.

There was time too for substitute Sverrir Ingason to elicit a superb save from Hugo Lloris, and Birkir Bjarnason kept up the defiance with a late headed second for Lars Lagerbäck and Heimir Hallgrímsson’s team. The debutants’ fairy tale was nonetheless drawing to an end; another could well be taking shape for Les Bleus.