Sunday, 3 July 2016

France vs Iceland Euro 2016 Football Match Preview And Prediction - July 4, 2016


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Host nation France’s blushes were saved by the brilliance of Antoine Griezmann on Sunday. They were drawn against Republic of Ireland in the first knockout round of the competition, and within three minutes they were behind for the first time this tournament when Robbie Brady netted a penalty after Paul Pogba had send Shane Long to the floor.

Republic of Ireland dug their heels in then, defending valiantly against a France attack who just couldn’t seem to break them down. They played fast counter attacking football when the ball was returned to them and held the French off for almost an hour. However, the second half saw the enigmatic Pogba spring into action, with the physically imposing Republic of Ireland defenders bouncing off him as he surged forward. This spurred the French players on, and the crowd were back on side as Antoine Griezmann headed in the equaliser. Four minutes later Griezmann was unmarked again to net his 3rd of the tournament, and five minutes after that he was through on goal yet again, only to be brought down on the edge of the box by Shane Duffy, who was duly sent off for his denial of a goalscoring opportunity. That was the end for the Republic of Ireland, and after that France never looked like relinquishing control again.

France haven’t been doing things easily though. They required a last gasp winner against Romania after they gave away a penalty in that game, and the winner came even later against Albania. Their largely rotated squad couldn’t break down Switzerland in the final group game, and they then had to come from behind against Republic of Ireland. They now come face to face with the giant killers of the tournament who, although a favourable tie on paper, could prove extremely troublesome.

Iceland did the unthinkable when they equalised against Portugal in their opening group game and held on for a point. It became even more unthinkable as a last minute winner against Austria saw them finish the group in 2nd place ahead of both Portugal and Austria. The unthinkable became ridiculous on Monday night though.

After four minutes Iceland were a goal down after Wayne Rooney smashed a penalty into the net, and it looked like a done job for England. Two minutes later Ragnar Sigurdsson bundled home from a long throw to put them back on level terms though, and the incapability of Joe Hart was on show yet again this tournament just 12 minutes later. A tame show from Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, after he was left unmarked by both Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling, somehow wormed it’s way under Hart’s arm to give Iceland a lead they would never relinquish. They defended with astute tactical awareness and organisation for the remainder of the match, but they were barely tested as a toothless England side once again slumped into anonymity when it really mattered. The only time Iceland were tested was when Marcus Rashford was introduced with mere minutes remaining.

Now Iceland look forward to the undoubted biggest football match in their history as they face host nation France in the quarter finals of a major international competitions. This is something that almost looked an impossibility even when they beat Netherlands in qualifying, but here they are. They are without a doubt here on merit as well after performing fantastically against two giants of international football in Portugal and England, and beating the highly though of Austrians as well.

Iceland’s two goal haul against England made it 13 games in a row in which they have found the net, and they will feel fairly confident that their set piece ability, counter attacking threat, and sheer physicality can upset a France defence who looked at sea against Republic of Ireland at times.

France’s defence will be even more depleted as Adil Rami serves his suspension, with him likely to be replaced by the liability that is Elaquim Mangala. Iceland will definitely feel that they have a goal in them against a France side who have conceded in six of their last nine matches.

However, I don’t think Iceland will be able to hold France off for the entire match either, so my prediction is for both sides to score at excellent value odds of 11/8. I’m going for a 2-1 win for France for my correct score prediction as well.

Head To Head
France have won five and drawn two of their last seven meetings with Iceland, and they have never lost to them.

Stats
85% of Iceland's last 13 games have seen both teams score, and France have conceded in 67% of their last nine games.

Kingsley Coman is a doubt after picking up an ankle injury, whilst N'Golo Kante will serve his suspension after getting booked against Republic of Ireland, as will Adil Rami. Apart from that France will stick with their 4-3-3 set up, with Moussa Sissoko or Yohann Cabaya potentially replacing the suspended Kante. Anthony Martial could get the nod up front after Olivier Giroud proved ineffectual yet again.

Iceland have no enforced changes to make and will continue their use of the successful 4-4-2 formation, led by Kolbeinn Sigborsson and Jon Bodvarsson and backed up by the main creative outlet that is Gylfi Sigurdsson.

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