France v Iceland: Expert v Expert Preview


The hosts against the surprise package (sorry Wales). When you read France v Iceland, you do not expect it to be a clash in the last-eight of a European Championships but it is and deservedly so.

Iceland are no minnows, they are here on merit and the French will have a battle on their hands if they are to avoid emulating the English.

We spoke to experts Julien Laurens and Alexander Einarsson to get the lowdown ahead of this quarter-final at the Stade de France.

 

TEAM NEWS

Julien Laurens on France: Didier Deschamps has to change his team for this quarter-final as Adil Rami and N'Golo Kanté are both suspended after receiving two yellow cards already in the competition. To replace Rami, Deschamps will choose Samuel Umtiti ahead of Eliaquim Mangala. Umtiti has done well in training, better than Mangala, and he will start for his first ever cap for France. In midfield, things could change as the head coach could play his team in a 4-4-2 formation with Matuidi and Pogba in front of the back four and Griezmann and Giroud up front with Payet on the left and Coman on the right.

Alexander Einarsson on Iceland: Iceland managers Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrímsson have been following the philosophy ‘if it ain‘t broke, don‘t fix it’ in the Euros thus far. With four games played, Iceland‘s starting XI has always been the same. There are no suspensions ahead of the match against France, although many players are in danger of missing out on the semi-finals if Iceland manage to cause yet another upset. We should expect to see the same starting XI at Stade de France, given that captain Aron Einar Gunnarsson will be able to recover completely. The midfielder did not go through a full first training session after the win against England but is likely to start in Paris.

 

FORM

Laurens: France were terrible in the first half against Ireland last weekend but played much better after the break when they switched to a 4-4-2 formation. Giroud and Griezmann combined very well up front. If the first half was a worry, the second half was the best 45 minutes France have played so far in this tournament. Overall, they have only lost one of their last 18 matches in all competitions and are very high on confidence and momentum.

Einarsson: Iceland‘s amazing journey to the quarter-finals of their first major tournament has captured the world‘s attention. Despite having a population of only 330,000 people, Iceland have tens of millions of fans from all over the world. Iceland finished second in their group after 1-1 draws against Portugal and Hungary and a dramatic 2-1 victory against Austria. They then famously beat England 2-1 in Nice to reach this stage - the biggest result in the country‘s history. Not only did Iceland beat England, but the result was a deserved one.

 

KEY MAN

Laurens: Antoine Griezmann started his Euro slowly but now he is on fire with three goals in his last three games in the competition. He was outstanding in the second half against Ireland last weekend with two goals. The team's form depends a lot on him so he needs to be at his best on Sunday.

Einarsson: Every single player in the Icelandic team has played his part in this success but perhaps none more so than centre back Ragnar Sigurðsson. The Krasnodar defender had the game of his life against England where he scored a goal, almost scored another one and pulled off a magnificent tackle on Jamie Vardy when the striker was about to get through, claiming in interviews after the game that he had “expected him (Vardy) to be quicker“. We are talking about a defender who respects no one, and once famously said: “Who is this Mandzukic?“ when he was asked before a game against Croatia in the World Cup 2014 play-offs whether he feared the then-Bayern striker.

 

SURE THING

Laurens: Antoine Griezmann is unstoppable at the moment and it will be very difficult for the Iceland defence to keep him quiet on Sunday, especially as he will play as a second striker, his favourite position. He has three goals in his last three matches in this tournament and I fancy him to score one more here at 2.30.

Einarsson: Iceland have scored in every game and conceded in every game. There‘s no reason to expect this game to be any different, so both teams to score at 2.25 is the bet.

 

LONG SHOT

Laurens: Samuel Umtiti will play his first ever game for France on Sunday against Iceland, replacing Rami at the back. It is a huge match for him and his career. He cannot afford not to play well and I think he will excel and maybe even score on his debut! Umtiti to score at anytime at 15.00.

Einarsson:  Defender Ragnar Sigurðsson scored against England last week and nearly scored another. You could win big if you bet on him to score two or more goals against France at odds 501.00.

 

SCORE PREDICTION

Laurens: France 1-0 Iceland at 5.75.

Einarsson: France 1-1 Iceland at 9.00