Maradona ~ Iceland Will Worry ‘Weakened’ France Defence
Diego Maradona says France are a tougher challenge for Iceland than England but the Argentina great believes the Nordic underdogs can cause the hosts problems in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.
Didier Deschamps’ side take on the tournament debutants at Stade de France on Sunday with a semi-final against world champions Germany the prize on offer.
Iceland, appearing at a major finals for the first time, upset the Three Lions 2-1 in the round of 16, prompting the resignation of manager Roy Hodgson.
Les Bleus, though, seeking to capture a third Henri Delaunay Cup, are likely to be less susceptible to the organised, counter-attacking approach favoured by the minnows, according to the ex-Albiceleste star player and coach.
“France will obviously be much tougher than England … they are again hungry on home soil,” Maradona wrote in the Times of India.
“We have seen teams like Brazil collapse under the pressure of playing before home fans in big games, but France used it to their advantage in the previous match, when they overturned a half-time deficit,” he added, referring to a 2-1 comeback win over Republic of Ireland in Lyon in the last 16.
“There is power and mobility in the midfield … Iceland have to crowd their [defensive] half to counter the early onslaught they are likely to face.
“You plan according to resources and situations. Iceland sit deep and that’s no crime.”
Maradona did express concerns about the quality of a France backline missing the injured Real Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane.
Adil Rami, suspended for the last-eight clash in Saint-Denis, has not impressed at the European Championship and is set to be replaced by Samuel Umtiti or Eliaquim Mangala.
“If Iceland don’t concede early and frustrate France, we will have a match on our hands because the home team’s defence isn’t as sound,” he wrote.
“Going up in numbers can leave spaces for Iceland to exploit and it would also suit their strategy of waiting for the counter. Varane’s injury has weakened the French defence, where wing-backs [Patrice] Evra and [Bacary] Sagna are not as sharp as they were.
“Deschamps is using them [because of a] lack of options. His defence is yet to be tested properly.”