France began the tournament as favourites, but having played no competitive fixtures for two years, no-one could really be sure how they would perform under the pressure of expectation that comes with being host nation. But they have survived some difficult situations, securing late victories over Albania and Romania, and they came from behind to beat the Republic of Ireland with a powerful second half display.
Iceland’s players are entering new territory with every game. Having reached the finals of a major competition for the first time, the nation is on the brink of the semi-finals. But while their progress has been remarkable, it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. They qualified on merit, beating the Netherlands home and away, and they have a thoroughly experienced international managerial team who have led them to draws with Portugal and Hungary and victories over Austria and England.
France vs. Iceland – H2H Stats
This is obviously the first meeting between France and Iceland at a major international tournament, but they have played against one another on eleven previous occasions, and not surprisingly, France have had the best of their encounters.
Their first two matches came during the qualifying tournament for the 1958 World Cup and were won emphatically by the French with an aggregate score of 13-1.
Overall, France has won eight of their eleven matches against Iceland with three draws, but the margin of French victory has been getting smaller. Their last two wins were both by a score-line of 3-2, the latest coming in a 2012 friendly when Iceland led 2-0 at half-time before second-half goals from Mathieu Debuchy, Franck Ribery and Adil Rami secured victory for the French.
French coach Didier Deschamps will have to make some changes to the French line-up, but the formation and tactics will remain the same. Eliaquim Mangala is likely to replace the suspended Adil Rama at right back, and Yohan Cabbaye could come in for N’Golo Kante, who has also picked up two yellow cards. Up front, the trio of Dimitri Payet, Oliver Giroud and Antoine Griezmann will be supported by Paul Pogba, and will try to stretch the Iceland defensive line in the hope of finding gaps to exploit.
Iceland’s coaching duo of Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson have nine players on yellow cards, but they are unlikely to make any changes to the side that performed so heroically against England. Their tactics are a straightforward throwback to the glory days of Norwegian and Swedish football in the 1990s, based around a solid 4-4-2, a deep defensive line and plenty of threat from free-kicks, corners and throw-ins. They are also dangerous on the break and will launch counter-attacking moves at every opportunity, orchestrated by the underrated Gylfi Sigurdsson.
France vs. Iceland Odds & Betting Markets
If victory in this match was simply a question of attacking talent, then France would win comfortably. At times in this tournament, they have looked irresistible going forward, and they are understandably the strong favourites.
There are areas of concern for the host nation. Defensively, they are vulnerable, and they won’t be used to dealing with the novel threat provided by the long throws of Aron Gunnarsson and the aerial strength of forwards Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. As England found to their cost, if a defence is not properly set up to deal with Iceland’s set-plays, they can struggle.
But Deschamps is a cautious, thorough coach and will be well aware of Iceland’s strengths. His team will have to remain patient if they are to breach their opponent’s stubborn defence, but they showed against Albania and Romania that they are capable of doing that, and I think in the end they will be too strong.
Back France to win this in normal time at 8/13 with 888.Sport.
Odds for First Goalscorer
France is likely to have most of the play, and while there are a few French players capable of getting on the score-sheet, there is one stand-out candidate for first goal-scorer in their ranks. Antoine Griezmann may not play as the central striker, but he has shown more instinct for goal than the out-of-form Olivier Giroud and is more likely to find himself in goal scoring positions than Dmitri Payet.
At odds of 4/1, he looks a solid bet in the First Goalscorer market with BetFred.
Odds for Both Teams To Score
The host nation will obviously dominate possession in this game, but the evidence suggests that Iceland will have their chances. They’ve managed to find the net in all four games so far, and no matter the score, they will keep going until the end.
It’s worth backing ‘Yes’ in the Both Teams To Score market at 11/8 with Ladbrokes.