Iceland has had a magical run through the 2016 Euro Cup that began with a 1-1 tie against heavily favored Portugal, and has most recently seen them beat England 2-1. The big question, though, is if this tiny nation of 323,000 can continue slaying the giants.
France has looked solid on their home soil, but not overly impressive. They beat Romania and Albania, as expected, before drawing with Switzerland. Didier Deschamps’ team beat Iceland to advance to the quarterfinals, finally showing their talent in the second half.
Once again, Iceland finds themselves an underdog to a larger nation. Do they have another upset in them? Or is the host nation going to stomp Iceland thanks to their talent and home-field advantage?
Find out as we cover this match along with which team you should bet on.
France vs Iceland (3:00pm EST on July 3)
Iceland -0.5 (-154)
France -0.5 (+125)
France vs Iceland Overview
The key for France will be carrying the momentum forward that they gained in Lyon against a tough Irish team. After falling behind 1-0 in the first half, Les Bleus mustered two goals to come back and win.
France has gotten by with mediocre efforts, turning it on occasionally like they did against Ireland. But Iceland is playing out of their minds and will force the French to turn it up a notch if they want to advance. France will deal with a handicap, though since Adil Rami and N’Golo Kante are suspended for this match.
As for Iceland, they’ve been doubted all along the way since many didn’t expect them to advance from group play. The doubts grew even larger when they faced a powerful English team in the quarterfinals. As you can see from our betting line, the doubters are in just as great of force in the semifinals.
But despite the naysayers, this is no longer a dream for Iceland. They are here in the quarterfinals with a real chance to win if things go well. Their defense has been stout, and they’ve also managed to score in every Euro match. If they can put it all together, like they did against England, then the Icelanders have a chance to reach the final four.
The key player for France is defender Samuel Umtiti, who needs to step up for the suspended Rami. Along with Laurent Koscienlny, Umtiti is key to shutting down an Icelandic team that’s surprised people with their offense.
And this effort starts with controlling Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, who heads Iceland’s offensive attack. Sigthorsson isn’t the most-heralded striker in the tournament, but he can be dangerous when not given proper attention. If Umtiti doesn’t stand out in his first major international debut, then Sigthorsson has a chance to net Iceland a goal.
One more key matchup will take place between center back Ragnar Sigurdsson and forward Olivier Giroud. Sigurdsson has been Iceland’s star, rarely making a mistake in this tourney. But Giroud will prove an extremely tough matchup, given his 6’4″ frame and strength. If Sigurdsson can continue his magnificence against the bigger Giroud, then Iceland could move on.
Breakout Performers: Olivier Giroud and Aron Gunnarsson
Giroud didn’t score against Ireland, but the Arsenal striker was key to getting France solid shots. He also provided Antoine Griezmann with one of his two goals, making him a passing and scoring threat. With France likely to stay in the 4-2-3-1 formation that they successfully used against Ireland in the second half, Giroud will be working alongside Griezmann again.
Aron Gunnarsson, who captains Iceland, will be key to Iceland’s offensive and defensive efforts. Playing with an injury, the midfielder has shown his toughness by playing 90 minutes in three of Iceland’s Euro matches. Gunnarsson’s passion and work ethic will not only be important to his team’s game plan, but also in motivating the other players.
Prediction on France vs Iceland
Iceland has made it this far with a strong defensive effort coupled with well-timed counters. And their effort has been incredible since they’ve managed to outwork every team they’ve played. But at some point, it seems that this dream has to end, given that Iceland doesn’t possess the all-around talent that other remaining Euro teams have. This end will probably come against France, even if we’d love to see a great story continue.
Final Score Prediction: France wins 3-1
Betting Advice: We see three good bets here: France on the spread (+125), a draw (+340), and Iceland on the moneyline (+700). The dream probably likely ends here for the Icelanders, but we think that +700 is good value on the moneyline.