France manager Didier Deschamps admitted facing world champions Germany was a daunting prospect after the tournament hosts brutally pummelled Iceland to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2016.
Les Bleus surged into a four-goal half-time lead courtesy of strikes from Olivier Giroud, who also netted after the break, Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Birkir Bjarnason scored Iceland’s consolations.
Victory at the Stade de France propelled France into a first semi-final of a European Championship for 16 years, since a showdown with Portugal at Euro 2000, and the two-time winners will now face Germany in Marseille on Thursday for a place in the final.
“Germany have been the best team, there is no doubt, even if they had a bit of a hard time on occasions against Italy who took them all the way,” said Deschamps. “But we are there, in the final four, and we will give our all against the best team not only in Europe, but the world.
“There are a lot of positives to take away from this evening and I am delighted for the players as they deserve this, and for these fans who have been behind us for months.
“To be able to offer them something to make them smile and feel happy and have another week in it – I am delighted.”
Despite a harsh ending to their debut at a major tournament, Iceland joint-manager Lars Lagerback, who will now step down from his position, refused to hide his positivity for the years ahead.
“If you look at the whole tournament, to reach the quarter-finals as a newcomer is absolutely fantastic,” said Lagerback. “I’m very proud. Iceland’s future looks good.”
France took just 12 minutes to land a heavy blow as Giroud latched onto Blaise Matuidi’s forward ball and lashed a volley low through the legs of goalkeeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson – their maiden first-half goal at the tournament.
Les Bleus were two goals to the good inside 20 minutes as Pogba leapt high above Iceland’s static zonal marking to plant a firm header beyond Halldorsson from an inswinging Griezmann corner.
Moments later Iceland had a chance to halve the deficit and it was a carbon copy of their last-16 leveller against England, only Jon Bodvarsson failed to convert a presentable opportunity after a menacing Aron Gunnarsson long-throw was flicked across goal.
Iceland recovered from a two-goal deficit at the Stade de France during a Euro 2000 qualifier before losing 3-2, although any hope garnered by such memories was extinguished two minutes before the break as Payet classily steered a skiddy 20-yard effort past Halldorsson.
There was no let up in France’s procession to the semi-final as Iceland’s defence was sliced open again, leaving Griezmann clear. The Atletico Madrid forward remained unflustered, waited for Halldorsson to move and then casually flicked the ball over him.
Iceland, unchanged for the fifth successive match, appeared to be showing signs of fatigue but managed to pull a goal back 11 minutes into the second period as a slick Gylfi Sigurdsson centre was converted by a sliding Sigthorsson.
But normal service was resumed shortly afterwards when Arsenal striker Giroud climbed highest to nod home Payet’s pacy free-kick, while Iceland eased the severity of the scoreline through a back-post Bjarnason header.