Slick France end Iceland saga

France 5-2 Iceland
Olivier Giroud, Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann struck in the first half as France ended Iceland's fairy tale to earn a semi with Germany.

EURO 2016 highlights: France 5-2 Iceland
  • France will play Germany in Marseille semi-final on Thursday
  • Olivier Giroud, Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann score for France in first half
  • Kolbeinn Sigthórsson and Giroud exchange goals after break
  • Birkir Bjarnason finds net for defiant Iceland late on
  • Iceland head home after first defeat at UEFA EURO 2016


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. Dimitri Payet (France) Payet fires in France's third©Getty Images

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.

Giroud still sees room for improvement from France
Giroud still sees room for improvement from France

Man of the match: Olivier Giroud (France)
France have three players in the running for the adidas Golden Boot after Giroud showcased his qualities in an excellent two-goal display at Saint-Denis. The No9's first was a confident and precise finish and his second was all strength and bravery. Moreover, his part in Payet's effort illustrated the kind of link-up play Griezmann was so keen to highlight earlier this week. Giroud just fits so well into this side.

Les Bleus race out of blocks
Didier Deschamps' outfit had rustled up six goals at UEFA EURO 2016 before tonight, with all of them coming after the interval – and three of them very late indeed. Brinksmanship is all very well, but it tends not to work as a long-term strategy, and France's fans wanted a sign that the coach knew how to get the best out of his players early on rather than coax a little magic out of them at the death. This was the perfect riposte, no team having hit four first-half goals at a UEFA European Championship before.

Sigurdsson still proud as Iceland bow out
Sigurdsson 'proud' as Iceland bow out

Iceland's unforgettable saga
The dream may finally be over for Iceland yet their impact on this tournament will be talked about for decades. The Cinderella side in a EURO where Wales are through to the semi-finals – imagine that – their players offered a lesson in self-belief, humility and unity, nine years on from losing 3-0 to Liechtenstein in a UEFA EURO 2008 qualifier. How far they have come – and how their splendid supporters will be missed. No one will take Iceland lightly again.

France win physical battle
Iceland possess players with genuine technical talent – step forward Gylfi Sigurdsson and Johann Gudmundsson, for example – but they have an undeniable physical edge. If that has troubled the likes of Portugal and England, the French are no slouches themselves when it comes to the more combative aspects of the game, and they were strong in the challenge across the pitch to blunt the underdogs early on.

Filling in for N'Golo Kanté, Moussa Sissoko brought real athleticism to the right flank, while Giroud provided a powerful outlet up top and the likes of Matuidi and Pogba were not about to be bossed around either. The latter's thumping headed goal said it all.

Pogba looks ahead to Germany showdown
Pogba looks ahead to Germany showdown

Team reporters' view

David Crossan, France (@UEFAcomDavidC)
That was exactly the performance and result France were looking for. Belying their reputation as slow starters, Les Bleus plundered goals aplenty and forwards Griezmann, Payet and Giroud appear to be engaged in their own private battle for the adidas Golden Boot. Pogba had a strong game in midfield and belief levels will be sky-high when they take on depleted Germany in Thursday's semi-final.

Jóhann Sigurdsson, Iceland (@UEFAcomJohannS)
France were by far the superior team at the Stade de France and it's a very tough loss for Iceland. However, this result should not cast a shadow over how far the side have come in recent years. Their first time at a major tournament and they get all the way to the quarter-finals. They have done their nation immensely proud. Given this is a relatively young squad, the future is bright for Icelandic football.