PARIS: Olivier Giroud scored twice to take man-of-the-match honours as France thrashed Iceland 5-2 on Sunday to set up a Euro 2016 semi-final clash against world champions Germany. Giroud fired France ahead after just 12 minutes at a rain-drenched Stade de France and got his second after the break as the hosts put down the tournament giantkillers who beat England 2-1.
Paul Pogba headed his first goal of the tournament before Antoine Griezmann fed Dimitri Payet to score the third and then made a brilliant chip to become the tournament’s top scorer on four goals.
Iceland put on another never-say-die performance though. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Birkir Bjarnason exposed France’s defence and Giroud was quick to pay tribute to his opponents.
“We scored five goals, we are very satisfied but Iceland never gave up. They fought with valour, they were very determined,” said the Arsenal striker. “I want to pay tribute to them. They had a wonderful Euro,” added Giroud, who said the match could have been his best in the French team.
He could well have had a hat-trick but was brought off after his second goal because he has a yellow card hanging over him and could not risk a second booking and a suspension.
Didier Deschamps’ men will take on Germany in Marseille on Thursday for a place in the final, while Iceland will return home as heroes after a remarkable run in their first appearance at a major tournament.GERMANY ‘BEST TEAM’
“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,” said Deschamps. Iceland, who had never beaten France in 11 attempts, kept faith with the side that shocked England, making European Championship history as the first team to name an unchanged line-up for their first five matches.
Samuel Umtiti became the first French outfield player to make his international debut during a major finals since 1966 as the Barcelona-bound defender replaced the suspended Adil Rami. Moussa Sissoko filled in for N’Golo Kante, who was also serving a one-match ban, on the right side of midfield as Deschamps stuck with the 4-2-3-1 that helped France fight back to beat the Republic of Ireland in the last 16.
Sluggish starts have been a hallmark of France matches in the tournament, but the hosts quickly seized control and Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson had to smother Payet’s early effort at the second attempt.
It took less than a quarter hour for France to make the breakthrough though. Giroud raced onto Blaise Matuidi’s floated ball over the defence and drilled through Halldorsson’s legs. Iceland, who fought back in style against England after conceding an early opener, could not replicate that response and fell further behind on 20 minutes.
Griezmann’s right-wing corner found a leaping Pogba who towered above Jon Dadi Bodvarsson to power in his first goal of the European Championship. Bodvarsson fired over the bar after Aron Gunnarsson’s long throw but caused trouble inside the French penalty area. But Les Bleus had wrapped up their place in the last four by half-time.
After Giroud knocked down a looping cross to Griezmann, the Atletico Madrid striker teed up Payet whose low drive whistled into the far corner two minutes before the break. Griezmann tucked away France’s fourth on the stroke of the interval, running onto Giroud’s pass and lifting the ball over Halldorsson.
Sigthorsson, who netted Iceland’s winner against England, scored for the second game running after poking in Gylfi Sigurdsson’s cross on 56 minutes. But France replied with Giroud beating Halldorsson to a Payet free-kick immediately before the Arsenal striker was withdrawn.
Iceland were rewarded for their perseverence though as they grabbed a second goal when Bjarnason headed in Ari Skulason’s cross on 84 minutes.