Mark O’Haire’s Euro Tips – France v Iceland
Fresh from handing England one of their biggest sporting humiliations in history, plucky minnows Iceland take on Euro 2016 hosts France in the quarter-finals of the competition at the Stade de France.
France v Iceland, Sunday 3rd July 20.00, ITV
It’s France’s third successive major tournament quarter-final and with Les Blues enjoying a W14-D2-L0 record on home soil in major tournament matches, the BoyleSports traders have made the hot favourites a 4/9 shot to claim top honours here.
Iceland – taking part in their first ever major tournament – have now lost just once in their 10 competitive matches (W5-D4-L1) and can be supported at 17/2 to progress to the semi-finals with a victory.
France had to come from behind to beat Ireland in the last-16 thanks to two quick-fire Antoine Griezmann goals. Les Blues had to regroup after their sloppy start, but showed they are capable of being real contenders if they cut out their mistakes.
Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba was imposing following his early error when giving away a penalty inside two minutes and at the back, centre-halves Adil Rami and Laurent Koscielny were untroubled, while frontman Griezmann clinically took his chances.
Les Bleus had been booed off at half-time by their supporters, but they should know their team only come alive in the second half of matches, having now scored 11 of their past 12 European Championship goals in the second period.
Didier Deschamps’ charges were involved in a goalless draw with Switzerland in their final group stage match but that was just the second time in their last 13 matches that they’ve failed to score at least twice. And it’s intriguing to note that France have attempted 44 more shots than Iceland at Euro 2016 but have scored the same number of goals (6).
Nevertheless, no quarter-final nation have faced as few shots-on-target than Les Blues’ tally of three and the two goals they’ve conceded both came from the penalty spot.
Although Rami and midfielder N’Golo Kante miss this match through suspension, France have reached the last eight in seven of the last 10 major tournaments boasting a record of W2-D2-L3.
The three defeats in 90 minutes came against eventual tournament winners.
Despite the positivity it’s fair to say the French have looked a little uncomfortable. They’ve shown a few signs of stage-fright and fans will be hoping Deschamps plays Griezmann off Olivier Giroud and not out-wide.
For Iceland, Lars Lagerback’s side are likely to employ their high-tempo, pressing style again and although Our Boys qualified for this competition from a group containing the Netherlands, Turkey and the Czech Republic – as well as their success against England – surely this is where their amazing adventure comes to an end?
Iceland’s average possession of 29.7% is unsustainable and should the hosts put in a 90-minute performance, the odds are likely to be justified here.
Still, there’s no pressure on Our Boys and whatever happens in the capital, the squad will be given a heroes’ welcome in Reykjavik with the Icelandic equivalent of a knighthood apparently awaiting the group when they get home. Magnificent.
This stage of the European Championship tends to produce tight encounters but with France notching at least twice in 11 of their past 13 fixtures and Iceland (along with Wales) the only nations at Euro 2016 to score in all of their four games, goals could be on the agenda.
In fact, Iceland have kept just one clean sheet in 10 matches with their 2-1 triumph over England accounting for their ninth successive international where both sides have scored.
The two trends make the 13/10 on Both Teams To Score an interesting option but I’m going to be bold and back the 5/1 available on France to win 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 with Griezmann scoring at anytime in BoyleSports’ specials.
Iceland didn’t get the credit they deserved for knocking out England and their memorable campaign could be extended at the Stade de France if Les Blues fail to give the underdogs the respect they deserve.
France underestimated Greece in 2004 at the quarter-final stage and went home with their tails between their legs but I reckon Deschamps will have them ready for the challenge here.
Antoine Griezmann to score at anytime & France to win 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 (5/1)
*Prices correct at time of publication.