High-flying Iceland the next test of courage for hosts France

Hosts France face an easy test on paper when they play Iceland in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals but the pressure Sunday will be immense on Didier Deschamps' team.

The coach must make the difficult decision over whether he wants to overcome a defensive problem by fielding the uncapped Samuel Umtiti.

France delivered the trophy at the last two home events, Euro 1984 and the 1998 World Cup, but one of the world champions, forward Christophe Dugarry, said that the team is condemned to win against the tiniest opponent ever to have played at the tournament.

"There is nothing worse. It is terrible for motivation and preparation," Dugarry told Wednesday's Le Parisien newspaper.

Antoine Griezmann, who scored twice in France's 2-1 comeback win over Ireland, also said France were in a must-win situation.

"It would be a failure to go out in the quarter-finals. It is a dream to play in a quarter-final at home, in front of your fans. It doesn't matter who the opponents are, you've got to give your all and try to win," he told the tournament website.

Iceland will have nothing to lose at all at the Stade de France. They showed in their 2-1 upset win over England in the last 16 what they are capable of and their confidence will be sky-high.

Iceland have scored in all their four games and will fancy their chances of doing the same against les Bleus, who approach the game with defensive difficulties.

They started ahead of the tournament when Real Madrid's Raphael Varane and Barcelona's Jeremy Mathieu could not be nominated for injury reasons.

Instead, Deschamps picked Lyon's Umtiti and Adil Rami. But Sevilla's Rami is now suspended after picking up a second yellow card in the tournament, forcing Deschamps to weigh up his options.

One of them is 22-year-old Umtiti, who is a former under-20 world champion but has not played an international game for his country at any level since October 2014. The more experienced Eliaquim Mangala is another option but he has had a poor season at Manchester City.

So far France have compensated fairly well for the absentees which also include midfielders Lassana Diarra and Mathieu Valbuena as well as forward Karim Benzema.

Deschamps still has plenty of quality on offer from the likes of Griezmann, Paul Pogba, Olivier Giroud and Dimitri Payet.

In order to give the players some distraction, Deschamps decided to break up the monotony in the camp at Clairefontaine with an open training session Wednesday.

The day started early, however, as Patrice Evra, Blaise Matuidi, Kingsley Coman and Moussa Sissoko had to submit urine and blood samples in a morning visit from drug testers.

Last update: Wed, 29/06/2016 - 16:25
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