France set up semi-final with Germany after beating Iceland 5-2 at Euro 2016
SAINT-DENIS, France (AP):
The Icelandic thunderclap roar proved no match for the sheer talent of France as the hosts finally showed their title credentials at the European Championship yesterday.
A crushing 5-2 victory lined up a semi-final with Germany as France displayed the attacking ruthlessness that had been missing in their previous four games at the tournament.
"We have a lot of desire to get our own back for what happened at the World Cup," France striker Olivier Giroud said of the quarter-final loss to eventual champions Germany two years ago.
Was it only six weeks ago Giroud was being jeered by his own supporters?
When Giroud cupped his ears to the crowd after scoring his second goal yesterday, the striker seemed to revel in silencing his critics. And yet only national unity is on the mind of Giroud as France prepare for their first tournament semi-final in a decade on Thursday.
"I am delighted for the players as they deserve this and for these fans who have been behind us for months," the Arsenal striker said magnanimously through a translator. "To be able to offer them something to make them smile and feel happy."
And yet Iceland left the Stade de France far from browbeaten.
An embarrassing exit was on the cards at half-time when France led 4-0. But the Nordic newcomers recovered the resolve that has seen them charm and captivate the continent over the last month.
Two second-half goals allowed the smallest nation to ever qualify for a major tournament to leave with their heads held high.
"We didn't handle it well mentally (in the first half)," joint-coach Lars Lagerback said. "But we showed in the second half that it wasn't something physical in the team We reloaded."
The night began with rain descending on the field and the Viking slow capping ritual, with its "Huh" chant, booming around the stadium from the Iceland fans.
But inspirational chants and a strong team ethic only take a team so far. This was a night of French superiority; when stature and skill of the hosts were too mighty to curb.
The Iceland defence was breached with ease in the 12th minute when Blaise Matuidi lofted over a high pass into the path of the advancing Giroud, who clinically shot through the legs of goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson.
Then, Paul Pogba soared above Jon Dadi Bodvarsson to meet Antoine Griezmann's corner and send a powerful header into the top corner in the 20th.
Worse was to come for the Icelanders with quick-fire goals inside two minutes before half-time.
Moussa Sissoko's cross was headed down by Giroud and Griezmann knocked the ball into the path to Dimitri Payet, who drilled a low shot in the corner of the net.
The fourth goal saw Giroud and Griezmann combine again. Griezmann raced onto Giroud's flick-on before dinking a shot over the advancing Halldorsson.
However, just like its raucous fans, Iceland weren't done.
Gylfi Sigurdsson whipped in a cross and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson slid past Samuel Umtiti, the Barcelona-bound defender making his France debut, to poke the ball over the line in the 56th.
The four-goal cushion was restored by Giroud within three minutes, connecting with Payet's free kick to glance a header into the net.
Iceland had the final say on the night, with Birkir Bjarnason evading Patrice Evra to head past Lloris.