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Five-star France end Iceland fairytale

 Abreshmina S Quadri |  2016-07-05 23:54:47.0  |  New Delhi

Five-star France end Iceland fairytale

France, who have reached the semi-finals for the first time after winning the competition in 2000, will now face the world champions Germany in a tempting last-four clash at Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Friday, July 8.

The hosts completely captured the first half play with their magnificent display of football as four different names shone on the scoresheet for the four goals that France smacked in the first 45 minutes. 

While the French dominated the play before the break, Iceland, who were the smallest nation ever to have qualified for the European championship, showed immense courage in the second half to bid adieu with grace. 

Before the game, the Iceland defence was much praised because of their rigid organisation against England but they somehow fell apart as France rallied past them scoring two goals within 20 minutes of the game play. 

Iceland began fairly bright with Gylfi Sigurdsson having the first shot on target, following which, even Birkir Bjarnason troubled the French defence with his shot that went wide. 

But France soon found their feet as a blissful long ball from the half line by Blaise Matuidi set up Oliver Giroud just behind the enemy line and Giroud fired in the ball beneath the Iceland keeper Hannes Halldorsson in the 12th minute. It was the first time in the tournament that France scored a goal in the first half. What seemed to be a first half jinx breaker for France, soon led to an outpour of goals. 

In the 20th minute, Antoine Griezmann put in a delightful corner ball to which Paul Pogba rose above defender Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and headed in powerfully. 

Even after going down by two goals, Iceland managed to threaten the hosts as just after Pogba’s goal, Bodvarsson came close to scoring when he stretched out to net in a flick from a long throw but his shot went over. 

Despite Iceland’s efforts, France showed their superior quality as they were able to find spaces easily to build good moves. In the 43rd minute, France played some wonderful interlinking football as Dimitri Payet scored his third goal of the tournament after Griezmann lay-off for him which he shot past Halldorsson into the bottom right corner. 

Griezmann immediately added to Iceland’s woes as he collected a pass via Giroud’s dummy to find himself clear of the back line and conveniently chipped over Halldorsson to register his fourth goal of the tournament and lead the race for the Golden Boot. 

After a gloomy first half, Iceland pressed hard and earned a consolation in the 56th minute, as Sigthorsson slotted home a beautiful low cross from Sigurdsson. 

Just when the Iceland camp had breathed a sigh of relief, Giroud headed in a delightful Payet free kick after Halldorsson put up a poor goalkeeping show.
 
Against French hopes of Iceland giving up, the Strákarnir okkar kept trying to get another goal and even forced a good save from Hugo Lloris in the 63rd minute, following which, their penalty appeal for a handball from Evra was put to rest. 

Later in the 84th minute, a good cross from Ari Skulason enabled Bjarnason to head home and make it 5-2.

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