Football

Lloris: France won't suffer same fate as England

France goalkeeper Lloris confident Les Bleus won't suffer same fate as England

QUARTER-FINAL

FRANCE v ICELAND

(Tomorrow, 2.50am, Singtel TV Ch 142 & StarHub TV Ch 220 - Eleven EURO)

France captain Hugo Lloris has vowed that the Euro 2016 hosts would not be caught out by surprise quarter-finalists Iceland in tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) match in Paris.

Les Bleus are seeking to emulate their 1984 European Championship success on home soil, but goalkeeper Lloris is well aware of the dangers posed by Iceland after the North Atlantic islanders shocked England 2-1 in the last 16.

"It's not by chance Iceland have made it through," Lloris said yesterday.

"The extension (to 24 teams) which has allowed smaller countries to take part in the competition has shown that there are no longer any small sides in Europe.

"Iceland have had a great run since the beginning of the tournament.

"We have a lot of respect for Iceland, we watched their great performance against England and we won't be surprised tomorrow."

Gareth Bale's Wales, who like Iceland are taking part in the Euros for the first time, sent shockwaves throughout France after stunning world No. 2 Belgium 3-1 yesterday morning to reach their first major tournament semi-final.

Lloris highlighted the fact that cohesive team performances have by and large trumped any individual brilliance at Euro 2016, with the continent's smaller nations leaving their mark on the tournament.

"There have been surprises right from the outset of this tournament," said the Tottenham star.

"We're also aware it's not simply enough to play good football and be a top side to make it into the last four.

"The best sides that have played the best football are not necessarily still in the competition.

"It's now more of a team mindset that we have and the difference will ultimately be made by a team's mental strength."

Didier Deschamps will be forced to make at least two changes, with defender Adil Rami and midfielder N'Golo Kante both ruled out through suspension at the Stade de France.

Samuel Umtiti, who is set to join Barcelona from Lyon, is expected to get the nod ahead of Eliaquim Mangala alongside Laurent Koscielny in defence for what would be his international debut.

Deschamps downplayed any fears about whether Umtiti was ready for such a big occasion.

"He has a lot of experience with Lyon in the Champions League and he was an Under-20 world champion with France," Deschamps said.

"If he's moving to the club where he's supposed to be going, that's not by chance either.

"He has all the attributes required of a top-level defender."

Deschamps joined Lloris in stressing that Iceland were not to be underestimated despite boasting a population of just 330,000.

"They're here because they deserve to be and they have quality in their side. They haven't stolen anything from anyone," said Deschamps.

"The players in their team play in the top leagues, they're not simply small-time players if you will.

"They've achieved great things before, and they deserved to beat England based on what they produced on the pitch."

SHREWD TACTICIAN

Deschamps, who has a reputation for being a shrewd tactician, is well aware that Iceland have created two goals from throw-ins straight into the penalty area during their fairy-tale run to the last eight.

"We know they often use low, straight throw-ins with well-defined positioning, because that's something they've been repeating match after match," said Deschamps.

"We will take measures to limit the effect of that aspect of their game.

"When they have a throw-in 30 or 40 metres from goal, it's the equivalent of a set-piece."

While more prestigious sides often concentrate on possession and passing, Iceland are first and foremost a physical, compact outfit who know how to make the most of their own artillery.

"They weigh on your defence with two tall strikers who put you under a lot of pressure," the France coach added.

"I can't make my own players taller by given them a few more centimetres, but we do have some who can fight for high balls".

France relied on late goals to beat Romania and Albania in the group stage, before Antoine Griezmann's brace rescued Les Bleus against the Republic of Ireland in the last round.

Deschamps knows that they could face an early exit, unless they address their worrying tendency to start matches slowly.

"We've managed to get through this far, but there might be a time when it will no longer be enough," he said.

"What is important is starting well and finishing well and we've always had a good reaction." 
- Wire Services.

BY THE NUMBERS

11 France are unbeaten in 11 previous matches with Iceland, winning eight of those games.

"There will be no surprises for us. If we go out there just telling ourselves that we’re the best and have more talent, we won’t go through."

- France captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris

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