Iceland headline Euro last-eight lineup

by

June 29, 2016
file Icelandic football fans watch on a large screen the Euro 2016 round of 16 match between Iceland and England in Reykjavik, Iceland on Monday.

PARIS (AP):

Somehow, a classic encounter between Germany and Italy is not the main attraction of the quarter-final stage at the European Championship.

Iceland's next act, in what is already one of the most surprising stories in European Championship history, is the match that's drawing most attention.

Can the team, which surprised so many by beating England 2-1 in the round of 16, do the same to hosts France when they meet at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis?

The island nation of just 330,000 people has undoubtedly taken the spotlight from all the others in the final eight, including Wales, who at another time would be basking in their underdog status.

Here's a look at how the Euro 2016 drama is peaking after what most concede to have been a lacklustre group stage:

MANIC MONDAY

A truly memorable day in European Championship history whetted appetites for the quarter-finals.

Two-time defending champions Spain lost to an Italian team that's defied its old reputation for dour, defensive play.

That was just a warm-up act.

Iceland's 2-1 victory over England is one of the most surprising results in European Championship history. After all, as England great Gary Lineker quipped on Twitter, Iceland has more volcanoes than professional footballers.

ICE, ICE, BABY

Next up for Iceland: France, in their national stadium on Sunday. Now, home fans are starting to believe their team can replicate the Euro 1984 and 1998 World Cup teams by winning on home soil.

But, given what happened to England, and others, French fans will likely be a little wary now about the match that concludes the quarter-finals.

Iceland, in their first appearance at the European Championship, have other achievements to brag about. The team also drew 1-1 with Portugal, daring to celebrate to the seeming annoyance of Cristiano Ronaldo.

GERMANY CRUISING

Quietly, ominously, Germany cruised into the quarter-finals without conceding a goal.

Italy coach Antonio Conte says the 2014 World Cup winners are the best team in France, which is part-truth and part-psychological.

If one team can intimidate Germany, it's Italy.

Italy's 2-1 win in a Euro 2012 semi-final extended a tradition of German losses that includes World Cup semi-finals in 2006 and 1970, and the 1982 World Cup final.

Italy have played two top-class teams at Euro 2016 Belgium and Spain and comfortably won both 2-0.

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