The winner of this tie will set up a semi-final with either Germany or Italy in Marseille.
The hosts will need to be at their best to ward off these Icelandic Viking warriors who have well and truly crashed the Euro 2016 party by making it unbeaten to the quarter-finals in their major tournament debut.
Les Blues reached the last-8 with thanks to a brace from Antoine Griezmann against Republic of Ireland. At the Stade de Lyon, France were shocked to find themselves behind inside two minutes when Paul Pogba sent Shane Long to the ground inside the area for Robbie Brady to convert the penalty kick. However, the French rallied and the Atletico Madrid forward netted twice in quick succession to secure victory.
Excitement has followed the French campaign so far. France booked their place in the last sixteen with a last gasp win against Albania in Marseille. It took them until the 90th minute to break the red and black eagles’ resolve when Antoine Griezmann headed home form an Adel Rami cross. Player of the tournament Dimitri Payet rubbed salt into Albanian wounds with France’s second deep into stoppage time.
It was the second time in Euro 2016 that Didier Deschamps’ men have left the home nation’s fans with their hearts in their mouths. In the tournament’s curtain raiser they waited until the 90th minute to take a 2-1 lead against Romania, Payet was the scorer with one of the goals of the tournament.
In their final group game a 0-0 against Switzerland gave the host nation a day off from the heart attack inducing late flurries that have characterized their tournament. Only the odd Pogba thunderbolt went close for Didier Descahmp’s team, still a draw was enough to secure top spot in Group A.
Iceland have been one of the success stories of UEFA’s decision to expand the tournament from 16 to 24 teams and they have taken the opportunity with both hands by booking a place in the last-8.
In the biggest upset of Euro 2016 so far, minnows Iceland knocked out England in the 1st knockout phase. The Icelanders even came back from a goal down after keeper Hannes Por Halldorsson brought down Raheem Sterling inside the box in the second minute for Wayne Rooney to convert the penalty.
Moments later however Iceland were level when a trademark long throw found its way to Ragnar Sigurdsson at the back post who bundled home past Joe Hart. On the 18th minute Iceland were in front as Kolbeinn Sigthorsson powered a shot through the England keeper’s hands to make it 2-1. From there, Iceland dug in and saw out the game in a nervy second half.
On their debut performance at a major tournament Lars Lagerbeck’s side impressed with their robust counter-attacking football in a 1-1 versus Portugal. Birkir Bjarnason took advantage of some sloppy defending to level the scored moments into the 2nd half.
In their second game Iceland had their hearts broken against Hungary. Birkir Saevarsson’s scored into his own net to concede a last minute own goal after Gylfi Sigurdsson had put his side ahead from the penalty spot. However, Iceland put that behind them as they saw off a desperate Austria in the climax to Group F which brought amazing scenes to the tiny nation.
In that game John Dadi Bodvarsson’s opener was cancelled out by Alessandro Schopf but there were signs luck was on their side when Aleksandar Dragovic missed a penalty for the Austrians. As Marcel Koller’s side pushed for the goal that could see Austria progress and the Icelanders eliminated, the men in blue sprung the perfect counter attack to score the winner and make history with their first ever win at a major tournament.
France have never lost to Iceland in 11 meetings, winning eight and drawing three. The majority of those meetings have occurred in the qualifying campaigns of major tournaments but the last time the sides met was in a 2012 friendly.
In that meeting Iceland actually raced to a two goal lead in a little over half an hour. By the end of the 90 minutes however, France ran out 3-2 winners. Birkir Bjarnason and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson scored for Iceland while Mathieu Debuchy, Franck Ribery and Adil Rami netted for Les Blues.
Didier Deschamps will have to play the quarter-final without central defender Adil Rami or battling midfielder N’Golo Kante who both miss out with suspensions.
Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala or Barcelona’s $30 million signing Samuel Umtiti is could partner Laurent Koscielny in defense. The Arsenal defender is also on a booking and could miss the semi-final with a France win and a booking here.
Yohan Cabaye is likely to be preferred over Moussa Sissoko to replace Kante due to his ability to keep the ball and experience in a deeper role.
Olivier Giroud is also on a booking and again in danger of losing his place in the team after another non-display in the last-16. As a result, it is possible that Antoine Griezmann could be moved to the middle and Kingsley Coman brought in to fill the space out wide.
Didier Deschamps says his side ahven’t performed to their full capability yet and will look to improve their performances in order to drum up the support of the host nation crowd.
“We don’t do everything well, no team has done,” said Deschamps.
Adding: “That was the case yesterday for everyone. It’s a very even European Championship, and France, with all of our players, are not going to try to stop them and slow them down.This team is giving a lot of emotion to the crowd and making everybody fall in love with them.”
Predicted Line Up: Lloris; Sagna, Evra, Koscielny, Umtiti; Matuidi, Cabaye, Pogba; Griezmann, Payet; Giroud.
Iceland have no significant disciplinary concerns and, notwithstanding any late fitness worries, are unlikely to make major changes to the side that so comprehensively outclassed England.
Iceland will line up in the same 4-4-2 formation and look to exploit set pieces and the counter attack.
Iceland have already exceeded expectations and they are ready to face France in much the same way as they did England.
“This was a game for them (England) to lose. All the pressure was on England,” Hallgrimsson said. “They mocked us a bit before the game but we had nothing to lose. When you go into a game like that, you can be relaxed and show your best.
“Against France we can go relaxed and show our best as well. We don’t have the pressure of the entire world that we need to win this game. We want to win but we don’t absolutely need to. That is a big benefit for us.”
Hallgrimsson and joint coach Lars Lagerback warned, however, that France would be keeping up the pressure until the end.
“That is why they are scoring at the end of games,” Hallgrimsson said. “Because they are really tiring their opponents. Everybody is playing against France with that in mind, not to concede.
“They keep on going until the end. They tire their opponents and at the end of the games they score vital goals. We have to concentrate the whole game, not 90 minutes but 95-96 minutes against France.”
Predicted Line Up: Halldorsson; Saevarsson, Sigurdsson, Arnason, Skulason; Gudmundsson, Gunnarsson, Sigurdsson, Bjarnason; Sigthorsson, Bodvarsson.