France’s bid to win the European Championships on home soil for the second time hinges on their quarter-final meeting with Iceland on Sunday night (8pm on ITV1). Here is our preview of Iceland’s bid to deny the Euro 2016 hosts, concluding with betting tips.
Les Bleus suffered a scare in their round of 16 tie with the Republic of Ireland last weekend, with Robbie Brady giving Martin O’Neill’s side the lead from the penalty spot after Shane Long was brought down within a couple of minutes of kick-off.
A brace from Antoine Griezmann (pictured) in the second period ensured France turned things around and secured the win that booked their place in the last eight, but it was yet another game in which Didier Deschamps’ men failed to convince for the whole 90 minutes. Indeed, France’s clash with Switzerland in their final group stage encounter was the only match in which they started strongly and played well in the opening 45 minutes. It is a problem they will have to address for these latter stages of Euro 2016, with some fans fearing that France could soon give themselves too much to do if they continue to start games sloppily.
Iceland’s qualification for the round of 16 was expected to be the peak of their extraordinary adventure, but a stunning 2-1 defeat of England on Monday night sent them through to the quarter-finals. The most incredible thing about Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson’s charges triumph was the fact that it was fully deserved, with Iceland playing the better football on the night and creating more clear-cut goalscoring chances than their supposedly superior opponents.
Iceland remain unbeatens in the tournament after 1-1 draws with Hungary and Portugal and a 2-1 win over Austria in the group stage. The nation that is home to just 330,000 people would have reached the knockout rounds in the old Euro format, so has not really benefited from its expansion and has nothing to fear heading into Sunday’s tie against the hosts.
France will be without the suspended N’Golo Kante, which means Crystal Palace midfielder Yohan Cabaye is likely to be deployed at the base of midfield, while Adil Rami’s ban should lead to Samuel Umtiti winning his first ever international cap alongside Laurent Koscielny in the heart of the backline. Griezmann could be switched into a more central starting role after he changed the Ireland game following his move infield, with Olivier Giroud likely to continue up front and Dimitri Payet almost certain to start too. Iceland, conversely, have no injury or suspension worries and are expected to name the same starting XI that defeated England earlier this week, with Lagerback and Hallgrimsson’s men set to line up in a 4-4-2 formation once more.
Our Preview’s France v Iceland Betting Tips
It would be foolish to write Iceland off after their accomplishments so far this summer, but it is still difficult to see them overcoming France in Paris this weekend. The host nation are likely to have too much quality for the biggest underdogs left standing, with the presence of the likes of Griezmann, Payet and Giroud – and not to mention probable substitutes Kingsley Coman, Anthony Martial and Andre-Pierre Gignac – in the forward line evidence of their firepower.
They may have looked a little shaky at the back at times so far, but France are yet to concede a goal from open play – Hugo Lloris has only been beaten from the penalty spot. Paul Pogba has the quality to grab any game by the scruff of its neck and could do exactly that at the Stade de France on Sunday.
Overall, then, this preview’s verdict is to back a comfortable France win, with the long odds available on a 3-1 victory making that betting tip look particularly tempting. Iceland have found the back of the net in every game up to now and should do so again here.