Olivier Giroud remarkably claimed that France cannot be ‘confident’ ahead of Thursday’s Euro 2016 semi-final against Germany after his two goals in Paris secured a 5-2 quarter-final victory against Iceland.
Didiier Deschamps’ team will face the Germans in Marseille aiming to book a final date against Wales or Portugal at Stade de France on 10 July.
But with Germany extending their hold over the French with a 1-0 quarter-final win at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 – France have not beaten Germany in a competitive fixture since the 1958 World Cup – Arsenal forward Giroud admitted that Joachim Low’s team will go into the semi-final as favourites.
“We are very pleased,” said Giroud. “We had a lot of fun and are very pleased with our performance, but we will try and erase some of the defensive mistakes because, against Germany, we will be punished.
“Are we confident [playing Germany]? No, Germany are the world champions and will be favourites. But we want to write another chapter in the history of French football.
“We need to rest up and focus once again because we have a big match against the world champions. It will be a completely different match, they are world champions and always in the last four of tournaments, so it will be a great match.
“We have a lot of desire to get them back for the World Cup and it will be a different game in Marseille, where I hope the fans are as excitable as they were tonight.”
France coach Deschamps, who captained the country to World Cup glory in 1998, echoed Giroud’s claims by insisting that Germany are the strongest team in the tournament.
“Germany are the best side, there’s no doubt about that – although they had a few scares against Italy,” Deschamps said. “We’re going to really go for it against the best side in the world.
”I’m delighted every time my team win. It’s never easy. We did what we needed to in the first half. We then relaxed a little bit and made some substitutions, that doesn’t help things.“
Iceland’s defeat ended the country’s fairytale run in the competition – the tiny Atlantic nation’s first appearance in a major tournament. And joint coach Lars Lagerback, who will step down after the tournament, insists that the team can now build in their performances at Euro 2016.
”Coming as a newcomer and getting to the quarter-finals, the players have done a marvellous job,” Lagrerback said. “Even if it’s disappointing now, the whole picture is a fantastic journey.
“Iceland’s future looks good. There are some young players here, and if everyone stays in good clubs or even better clubs, the future looks really positive.
”I’m very proud. All of this four-and-a-half years, we have developed the whole time. It’s been so easy being the coach of this team, a privilege and a fantastic journey, this has been really something extra.“
Iceland midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson claimed that the team’s run to the last eight will now inspire a new generation of youngsters in the country.
”We’re very proud,” the Swansea City midfielder said. “It’s been a fantastic tournament, something special for a small team like us, we probably achieved something no one expected us to.
“It gives the kids back home hope that something like this is possible, and hopefully we’ll be back in another finals. Ten or 15 players are a really good age, and we’re already looking forward to the World Cup starting. Hopefully the future will be bright for Iceland.”