Last night marked the end for Iceland, everyone's second team at the Euros this year, after they were outplayed by a classy French side who made the English defeat look all the more embarrassing. Although the Vikings will be heading home they will be greeted as heroes and the expectations going into World Cup qualifying will be simple: make history again. Here are the 5 Things We Learnt from last night:
1. France are ready
Ok, Iceland were huge underdogs and France, man for man, should have beaten them as comfortably as they did. But the victory was emphatic and resounding and told the rest of the tournament that they mean business once again on home turf. The home crowd is finally starting to warm up and the reception for Olivier Giroud after his two goals shows just how together the national side are now, after he was booed during the warm up matches. After 5 well worked, well taken goals the French will have a different challenge entirely against a German side that dominate possession and will put them under pressure for the entire game. Once France were 2-0 up, Iceland had to chase in a way they were not used to and were not suited to. That won't be the case with Germany, but France look well equipped to hold their own defensively and make an impact going forward too. Dimitri Payet and Paul Pogba offer a threat from outside the box, Blaise Matuidi revealed his passing precision with his ball to Giroud and the star, Antoine Griezmann, keeps on shining as he moved to the top of the scoring charts on Sunday evening.
2. Pogba is alive and well
Paul Pogba, poster boy of Euro 2016 in the build up to his side hosting the tournament and subject to much transfer speculation throughout the last few years, has had a so-so time of it so far in the blue of France. After being dropped for the second group match and struggling to find his destructive rhythm, the Manchester United/ City/ Real Madrid target finally found the net yesterday with a towering header which hopefully calmed the nerves and will put him in a good position for the semi-final clash with Germany. He still looked a little off form but his battle with Toni Kroos will be fascinating and the idea of the two of them linking up in the Real Madrid midfield, alongside Modric, is terrifying. The real Paul Pogba is yet to stand up but there are just signs that he may be dragging himself out of his seat.
3. Iceland will be back
The "plucky", "heroic" and "Leicester of the Euros" tags will never entirely fade, bringing with it a whole new level of pressure for the Icelandic team. But they will certainly be back to grace the biggest stage of European competition, if not the World Cup in two years too. They have a team with no real stand-out talent and as long as the manager and the organisational structure is in place they have every reason to believe they will be successful in qualifying again. In Gylfi Sigurdsson they have a playmaker who can keep the ball, in Aron Gunnarson a leader and captain who takes the game into his own hands and drags his men with him, and in Sigthorsson they have a striker with the potential to lead the line successfully for a number of years. They are well organised, can score goals and, most importantly, are the pride of their nation. On a number of occasions they were carried on a wave of good feeling, something no England team in the last 15 years can really say they have experienced. With such strong support, a young core of players and the potential to keep the side together, the future is very bright for Icelandic football.
4. England were just not clinical enough
Iceland revealed last night that they are beatable, but instead of berating the English we should take a more reserved look at what happened. Even in defeat the Icelanders scored twice and were one of only two sides (Wales the other) to score in every match they played in the tournament. To that end England should have known they would pose a threat going forward and really, the fault for the defeat lies at the feet of the defence and Joe Hart for conceding two sloppy goals. But if the difference in defeat was made defensively, the difference in class can be seen going forward. France were brutal, missing none of their clear cut opportunities and scoring goals in a variety of ways: two one-against-ones, a shot from the edge of the box and a header from a corner in the first half sealed the win. The flexibility and clinical finishing are all that set France apart from England and it must be said that England must point the finger at Roy Hodgson for having a rigid team set-up, as well as his attacking players for attempting the same thing for 90 minutes. Only Marcus Rashford tried anything new, when he was introduced with two minutes left. Negativity is obviously expected in the aftermath but the right appointment would see this set of players take huge steps.
5. The Euros are wide open
France against Germany was expected to be a classic at this stage, but no one could have predicted the dearth of "favourites" left in the tournament, even at the quarter final stage. France have been solid and deserving of their title as favourites so far, whilst Germany have shaken their unconvincing start to overcome a tricky quarter final with Italy, one which will go down as a classic in German football history: the first victory over the Italians in a competitive tournament. Wales have been the surprise team so far but will now be expecting to make the final after playing impressive and successful attacking football. But Portugal stand in their way, and with the talents of Cristiano Ronaldo finally looking for that trophy with his country that he has craved since heartbreak at home in 2004, they will be no pushovers. The semi-finals are impossible to predict: two giants of the game will fight it out on Thursday, leaving two outsiders ready to fight for their place in Paris next Sunday. Whatever happens it will be tense and thrilling. Don't take your eyes off the latter stages of this tournament for a moment.
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