Friday, January 19, 2018
Sports

Host France ends Iceland's underdog run at European Championships

SAINT-DENIS, France — Olivier Giroud scored twice to lead France to an emphatic 5-2 victory over Iceland on Sunday, sending the hosts into a European Championship semifinal with Germany.

It was a humbling but far from embarrassing exit for Iceland, which progressed much further than expected in its first international tournament.

France contests its first major semifinal in a decade Thursday in Marseille.

Giroud, an Arsenal striker booed by French fans in May, is proving to be essential for Les Bleus, netting his team's first and last goals of the day at the Stade de France. Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann also scored in the first half as France led 4-0 at halftime, the first team ever to score that many in the first 45 minutes of a Euros match.

Griezmann, small for an attacking player at 5 feet 9, scored with an excellent finish — a chip over the head of 6-3 goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson — and set up two more goals.

"It will be great if he carries on being the top scorer in the competition," France coach Didier Deschamps said. "He's a very efficient player and is excellent technically. We'll need more of the same from him on Thursday."

However, like its raucous fans, Iceland wasn't done. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Birkir Bjarnason had second-half goals for the smallest nation ever to make the Euros — population 330,000; the Paris metropolitan area alone has about 33 times that — which leaves this competition having impressed many and written an underdog's tale for the ages.

"We are massively disappointed," Aron Gunnarsson, Iceland's captain, said. "But we are also incredibly proud." It showed, as the Icelandic fans lingered well past the end while the French filed out.

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