‘Germany are the best, but we will give it our all,’ says France coach Didier Deschamps after shattering Icelandic fairy tale at Euro 2016
Olivier Giroud produces his best performance as hosts reach semi-finals with 5-2 hammering of underdogs
France swept emphatically into the Euro 2016 semi-finals and brought Iceland’s fairy tale run to a crushing halt as Olivier Giroud scored twice in a 5-2 win on Sunday to set up a mouth-watering last-four clash with Germany.
Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann were also on target in a one-sided romp at the Stade de France that proved a nightmare end to war-weary Iceland’s improbable Euro dreams.
Having fairly comfortably eased past England into the quarter-finals, Iceland, the smallest nation ever to have qualified for the European Championship, with a population of 330,000, were 4-0 down inside the first half.
They tried to rally after the break with a goal from Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, and added a late consolation through Birkir Bjarnason, but the damage had already been done.
France, who had not been past the quarter-finals since they won the tournament in 2000, eased off and cruised home and will no doubt feel they are warming up nicely ahead of Thursday’s semi-final against world champions Germany in Marseille.
“Germany are the best team, there is no doubt about that, even if Italy gave them a few scares. But we are there in the final four and we’ll give it our all,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.
“I am delighted for the players as they deserve this, and for these fans who have been behind us for months
“To be able to offer them something to make them smile and feel happy and have another week in it – I’m delighted about that.”
Giroud, jeered by France supporters barely a month ago, won them over with what he described as his best performance for his country in a major tournament.
“We have a lot of desire to get our own back for what happened at the World Cup,” Giroud said of the quarter-final loss to eventual champion Germany two years ago.
The 29-year-old did not want to dwell for too long on his own display and said that the team’s achievement in reaching the semi-finals was more important than his official man of the match award.
“I’m pleased, nothing more than that,” Giroud said.
“I don’t know if that’s my best performance for France because I’ve played some other good games but in a major tournament, such as Euro 2012 and the World Cup in Brazil, that is my best. I felt good from the start.
“Iceland didn’t give up at any stage,” Giroud said. “They were a very valiant and determined side who kept on going until the end.”
Iceland failed to use their brains, joint coach Lars Lagerback said, though he spoke with pride of the team’s achievements.
“It’s some kind of mental thing that happened to the players. We weren’t using our brains, we didn’t play our normal way.
“Part of it is that France were very good but we weren’t sharp enough in our decision-making. We made some silly mistakes, and we didn’t do well as a team,” added Lagerback, who is now handing over the reins completely to partner Heimir Hallgrímsson after four and a half years.
“It’s really impressive that the players turned it around as they did and I don’t think it was because France let us do that. They showed a bit of the real Icelandic attitude in the second half.”
“It’s been a fantastic tournament so it’s a big thank you to everyone,” said Lagerback.
“It’s been a fantastic journey for me. I’ve enjoyed – maybe not the first 45 minutes today – but all my time in Iceland and it’s been a privilege to be involved.
“If you look at the whole tournament, and to reach the quarter-finals, it’s been fantastic.”
Reuters, Agence France-Presse