By Antony Jordan
This Sunday evening sees the final match from the Quarter Finals of Euro 2016 as the host nation France take on Iceland, who were the biggest giant killers in the competition after beating England until Wales crushed Belgium 3-1 on Friday night. The hope of a nation rests of the shoulders of the French side and after the performances of Iceland throughout this competition there will be a massive amount pressure on the hosts. Will Didier Deschamps’ men be able to shoulder this burden?
We preview this vital France v Iceland Quarter Final with online sportsbook Bet365.com to provide our final Euro 2016 pick from the last eight stage.
To win (90 minutes):
Route to the Quarter Finals:
While France topped Group A with seven points ahead of Switzerland, Albania and Romania having scored four goals and conceded just one things were not as straight forward as the scorelines suggest. They started with a 2-1 win against Romania and after taking a 57th minute lead they promptly gave away a penalty to see Romania level before Dmitri Payet scored an 89th minute wonder goal to take all three points, while they huffed and puffed against Albania in their second game too. The Albanians were tight and compact at the back and while France triumphed 2-0 both of these goals came in injury time at the end of the match.
The final group game against Switzerland saw changes and few chances as both sides failed to ignite as the match ended 0-0 and France also struggled against Ireland in their first knockout stage match as they conceded another penalty after one minute before a rapid fire double from Antoine Griezmann saw them edge a physical and tight match 2-1 to move into this Quarter Final. They have not been particularly impressive against defensive sides so far, so can they step up a gear to see off one of the biggest surprises in this tournament in this clash at the Stade de France?
After finishing above Portugal in Group F Iceland had already caused a massive shock at Euro 2016 by securing a place in the knockout stages on their debut on the biggest stage in Europe, but after coming from a goal down after four minutes to send England crashing out of this competition things just seem to be getting better and better for the Nordic nation. They began their tournament with 1-1 draws against semi-finalists Portugal and Group F winners Hungary before seeing off Austria to secure second place in the group and then crushing the hopes of England with a fantastic performance in Nice. Their tournament has been characterised by low possession football with banks of defensive players being aggressive and pressing the ball, while hitting the opposition goal with pace and accuracy. With France struggling against well marshalled defences could they retake the biggest shock of the tournament award from Wales by winning this match?
The French side have issues with their side coming into this match as central defender Adil Rami and midfield dynamo N’Golo Kanté are suspended and will be certain to miss the match. Deschamps is likely to replace them with new Barcelona signing Samuel Umtiti and Crystal Palace playmaker Yohan Cabaye, but with being brought in with little game time in this tournament this could cause balance issues for the French side. On top of this 19 year old Kingsley Coman is doubtful too and while the majority of their squad is available seeing the loss of three regular players, especially in Kanté who never stops running, will certainly weaken the team.
Iceland are fully fit for this match and they will play their strongest side as they look to upset the odds and triumph against France for the first time in their history. If they continue to play their natural game any side that faces them will struggle and this is especially true for the French with the weight of pressure and expectation on them.
These two sides have met just once since qualification for Euro 2000 when they clashed four years ago on French soil as the home side were warming up for Euro 2012. France warmed up well in that match to an extent as they trailed 2-0 at half time before scoring three times in the second 45 minutes, including two goals in the last six minutes, to triumph by a single goal, but even four years ago Iceland showed what they are made off. They are much stronger at this time, so can Iceland do what every neutral wants them to do and send the hosts packing this Sunday evening?
With Iceland defending so well at Euro 2016 and France having scored exactly zero goals in the first 57 minutes of matches, with half of their six goals coming in the 89th minute or later we can see this match being another one of the tight clashes that have been regular throughout the competition. With France struggling in the first half of matches and missing some of their key players we feel that this match, just like our pick from the France v Ireland game, offers value on the half time markets and our pick comes from this as we favour Iceland not to be losing at the half time whistle.
Can they go on to win from there? That is the big question and while it is possible, France certainly have the ability to turn things around and progress. But, as Wales clearly showed, heart, passion and desire are more than enough to see you overcome other teams at Euro 2016 so anything is possible. We’ll certainly be cheering on the Icelandic side!
Euro 2016 Picks Best Bet
Our best France v Iceland bet is back Iceland/Draw at Half Time @ 1.83 at Bet365.com.