World Champions faced Iceland in Group H in the European Championship Qualifiers. The Icelanders hosted France, but the French managed to pull out a hard-earned 1-0 win away from home.
The tactical battle
Iceland ran out in flat 4-4-2 formation focused on defending their goal in two blocks of four players deep into their half.
The guests lined up in 4-3-3 with Coman and Griezmann down the wings, and Giroud utilized as the target men for Les Bleus. N’golo Kante suffered an injury in the warm-up for the match, which meant that Sissoko took his place in the starting eleven.
This was an important match for the Icelanders, who are still fighting for the top two spots in the group in order to qualify directly for the Euro 2020.
France also needed a win here in order to keep up with Turkey, who is leading the group.
The guests dominated the whole match, especially the first half where the French had 75% possession of the ball. The French also had a penalty claim which was correctly dismissed by the Rocchi. Deschamp’s men forced Halldorsson to react twice in the first half, but Iceland managed to keep the clean sheet going into the half.
However, when Griezmann fell down in the box in the 65th minute, Olivier Giroud converted the penalty, scoring after a dry spell with Chelsea as the former Arsenal man is yet to find the next when playing for Frank Lampard.
This prompted a reaction from Iceland, who turned to a bit more offensive approach, but they couldn’t create anything, finishing the match with only one shot on Mandanda’s goal.
Iceland’s attacking approach opened up space for France who created a lot of opportunities, with the substitute, Wissam Ben Yedder missing a pair of golden opportunities and Matuidi hitting the post among others.
France transition ahead of Euro
France also saw a good debut of Varane-Lenglet duo in the centre of defence, with Samuel Umtiti falling out of favor after constantly struggling with injuries since the World Cup last year.
Lucas Digne earned a chance to fight for his spot, with Bayern’s Lucas Hernandez waiting for the opportunity by the sideline.
The hard-working midfield of Moussa Sissoko, Corentin Tolisso, and Blaise Matuidi did a good job in protecting the defence while allowing the front three to move freely.
However, Deschamps will perhaps try to find some more creative solutions to help the team, given that Ndombele is a realistic option from the bench, and the World Cup-winning duo of Paul Pogba and Kante should be back from injuries for the next international break.
Antoine Griezmann was the standout performer, as Barcelona’s new ace did a great job of connecting the lines and feeding off of Giroud’s hold-up skills.
It was especially interesting to watch Sigthorsson and Giroud’s aerial battles with the Icelander winning 17(!) headers, and Giroud ending the match with six out of ten won aerial battles.
The indicator of French domination was that the French backline completed more passes than the whole of the Iceland team did.