The last quarter final of Euro 2016 takes place this evening as the hosts, France, and England’s conquerors, Iceland, clash today for the right to play Germany in the semi finals.
Interestingly, Iceland still remain unbeaten at this summer’s championships and are playing without any pressure or expectation. The same can’t be said for the hosts as anything but a win today would be a disaster, although they’ve already shown they have what it takes to recover from a setback.
France were 1-0 down to the Republic of Ireland last time out but two second half goals from Antoine Griezmann turned the game on its head and allowed them to go on and secure a place in the quarter finals.
However they will be without N’Golo Kante, who is suspended. The Leicester City midfielder has continued his fine Premier League form with his country, but a second yellow card of the tournament against the Republic of Ireland in the last-16 means he misses out in Paris.
Les Bleus had gone behind against Martin O’Neil’s men and had to fight back for a 2-1 victory, and Patrice Evra has warned against the same situation happening against a dangerous Iceland side.
“We keep scaring ourselves, we’re crazy,” the 35-year-old said. “If we keep doing that, we might not go through. We need to stop reacting and start acting. People go on about long throws and all that but Iceland are not just that. They’re a good team who can play good football and they did not get to this stage by accident,” he said.
Despite Iceland’s historic result against England, joint coach Heimir Hallgrimsson believes their best game is still to come, and that all the pressure sits firmly with their opponents.
“I think you can agree with me that we have been playing better and better throughout the competition, and I think you can agree with me that our best game is still to come.
“There is a big difference in the pressure on Iceland and on France. France cannot lose the game, it would be horrible for the French nation. But the Icelandic people would be happy if we get a good performance against France. But we are realistic. You dream big. We can play the best game of our lives and still lose against France.”
Kante will be joined on the sidelines by Adil Rami, who is also suspended for the clash, while exciting youngster Kingsley Coman is a doubt. The France forward was substituted late on against the Republic of Ireland after picking up an injury, and will be assessed ahead of today’s game.
Iceland head to Paris with a clean bill of health after captain and long-throw specialist Aron Gunnarsson returned to training on Friday.
The Cardiff City midfielder – whose throw-ins have created two goals for Iceland including one in their win over England – sat out of Thursday’s training with a back problem.
The last two encounters between France and Iceland have produced 10 goals, both finishing 3-2 to the French.
France are unbeaten in their last 16 major tournament games played on home soil, winning 14 and drawing two. Their last defeat dates back to July 1960 in the inaugural European Championships against Czechoslovakia (0-2).
The two goals France have conceded at Euro 2016 have been from the penalty spot (v Romania and Republic of Ireland). They have conceded fewer shots on target than any other team at this year’s European Championships (3 in 4 games).
France have attempted 44 more shots than Iceland at Euro 2016 but have scored the same number of goals (6).
Iceland are one of two teams, alongside Wales, to have scored in all of their games at Euro 2016.