Olivier Giroud scored twice to take man-of-the-match honors as France marched into the Euro 2016 semi-finals, but even after a 5-2 hammering Iceland departed with pride having struck new underdog blows.
France next play Germany on Thursday aiming to settle old scores from past World Cups and European Championships, and having home advantage and an attack led by Giroud and Antoine Griezmann that is starting to fire gives the hosts growing confidence.
The Euro 2016 semi-finals start in Lyon tomorrow with Gareth Bale’s Wales taking on Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.
Giroud hit a goal in each half of the comprehensive victory at a rain-drenched Stade de France. He was joined on the score sheet by Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Griezmann.
Atletico Madrid striker Griezman hit a brilliant chip on the stroke of halftime and now leads the tournament rankings with four goals.
France coach Didier Deschamps might have been worried, though, by the way Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Birkir Bjarnason exposed France’s defensive frailties with two second-half goals.
Giroud was quick to pay tribute to Iceland, the revelation of Euro 2016 after their 2-1 victory over England.
“We scored five goals, we are very satisfied, but Iceland never gave up. They fought with valor, they were very determined,” the Arsenal striker said.
“I want to pay tribute to them. They had a wonderful Euro,” added Giroud, who was brought off after his second goal to avoid getting a yellow card that would have led to a suspension.
“I’m very proud. It’s been a fantastic tournament, something special for a small team like us,” Iceland’s Gylfi Sigurdsson said.
“We’ve probably overachieved. It is something no one expected us to do, which is good because it gives kids back home hope that this is possible and hopefully in the future we’ll be back in the finals,” he said.
“We have probably 10, 15 players who are at a really good age and we’ll be looking forward to the World Cup qualifiers, which aren’t too far away,” he added.
Iceland only has a population of 330,000, but Euro 2016 has put the nation “on the map,” Arnor Ingvi Traustason said.
“I’ve been getting messages from all over the world from people proud of us,” he said.
Deschamps hailed his side’s performance, though he acknowledged the weaknesses highlighted by the two goals.
“It’s not ideal even if I made some changes, but there are so many positives to take from tonight,” Deschamps said.
“Germany are the best team, there is no doubt about that, even if Italy gave them a few scares, but we are there in the final four and we’ll give it our all,” Deschamps added.
Germany beat France in the 2014 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals, but the French feel their defeat in the 1982 semi-final when Patrick Battiston suffered critical injuries even more.
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She
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