Iceland (+810) v France (-220), Draw (+375)
Iceland’s (2-0-2) run to the quarterfinals in the Euros is nothing short of spectacular. The nation just over 300,000, which came in as an 80/1 longshot to win the tournament, has been able to freeze the clock, holding back midnight in their Cinderella run. Will the clock finally strike 12 this Sunday (July 3, 3:00 PM Eastern) when they face their toughest foe thus far in the form of host nation, France (3-0-1)?
During the Group Stage, France was basically handed a berth into the next round due to their weak competition (Romania, Albania, and Switzerland). However, they have yet to perform to the standard that many expected from the team with the second-best odds to win the tournament (narrowly behind Germany).
In the opening game of the tournament, it took a very late goal to give France the victory over Romania. The most logical response was that France was just experiencing some early tournament jitters. However, they were outplayed in the next match, a draw against Switzerland, and also surrendered an early goal to the Republic of Ireland in their Round of 16 matchup.
Antoine Griezmann saved the day with two second-half tallies against the Irish, but the team’s general level of play has some French supporters a little concerned.
On the bright side, France has dominated possession in three of their four games, and their defense looks nearly impenetrable.
As for Iceland, who are making their first Euro appearance and have never qualified for a World Cup, they were given little chance to advance to the knockout round, even in a weak group with Hungary, Portugal, and Austria. Even a much-celebrated 1-1 draw against Portugal in their opener didn’t convince Cristiano Ronaldo that this team had a chance. Another 1-1 draw with Hungary kept their hopes of advancing high and their fate was sealed after a 2-1 victory over Austria in their final game of group play.
Iceland have not had more than 37-percent of the possession in a game thus far, but they have countered well and taken advantage of their opportunities. As much as we are all hoping Iceland knocks off Portugal and a smug Ronaldo in the Euro finals, the underdog squad has to first focus on the daunting task that awaits them in France.
This is projected to be the most lopsided matchup in the quarterfinals. On paper, France should win without any trouble; but the confidence of Iceland has grown with every match and it will continue to do so if France allow them to hang around.
After watching Leicester City win the Premier League, and the Cleveland Cavaliers come back from a 3-1 series deficit in the NBA finals, I am truly believing that anything is possible. I’m riding Iceland out in this one at a massive price; the risk is worth the reward.
Pick: Iceland (+810).
(Photo Credit: By Andrzej Otrębski (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)