The nation which many neutrals had taken to their hearts – the smallest ever to take part in the Euro finals and conquerors of England in the last 16 – met their match as the hosts hit top form to book their place in a mouthwatering semi-final against Germany in Marseille on Thursday.
It was a cruel way for their journey to end, but the players deservedly took their standing ovation at the end.
Iceland had actually fashioned the first attempt on goal, when Gylfi Sigurdssson turned quickly and fired in a snapshot, but directed it straight at his former Swansea team-mate Hugo Llloris.
Having made that brighter start, the inevitable thought came to mind: surely another shock couldn’t be in the offing – or could it?
But it was to prove a false dawn for the underdogs as the hosts quickly established their superiority and, after they were first denied when goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson smothered at the feet of Antoine Griezmann, the hosts took the lead in the 12th minute,
Olivier Giroud, playing on the shoulders of his Icelandic markers, was quickest off the mark when Blaise Matuidi played a high ball over the top, and he advanced in the inside-left channel to fire his low shot through Halldorsson’s legs and into the far corner.
The lead was doubled seven minutes later when Griezmann’s corner from the right was met by Paul Pogba. The Juventus midfielder, who looks set to rejoin Manchester United, powered into the penalty are, rose highest and sent a bullet of a header crashing into the net.
Iceland did threaten to pull a goal back in the 24th minute from one of their trademark flick-ons from a long throw-in on the right. Jon Bodvarsson was first to react but as he stretched to reach the ball six yards out, could only direct it over the crossbar. France immediately went back into control and their lead became virtually unassailable when they cut through the middle of the Icelandic defence to strike again.
Griezmann seized on possession just outside the area and laid off to Dimitri Payet. The West Ham player took one stride before directing a low left-foot shot into Halldorsson’s left-hand corner.
There was hardly time to draw breath as the French struck again and took a four-goal lead into the interval, this time Griezmann racing clear on his own and deftly clipping a clever chip over Halldorsson as he raced off his line.
With the French exerting a stranglehold, Pogba – who was immense all over the field – fired in a shot that flashed just wide, and it seemed that the second half would be academic.
But suddenly Iceland showed that they were not going to give up without a fight, and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson managed to get ahead of Matuidi to meet a low cross from the right and squeeze a volley between Lloris and his near post.
You had to feel for Iceland, however, when the four-goal deficit was restored just three minutes later.
Payet sent a free-kick from the centre circle into the box and Giroud won the aerial challenge with Sverrir Ingason to head his third goal of the tournament.
The Arsenal striker was substituted almost immediately, denying him the chance of a hat-trick, but manager Didier Deschamps was clearly making sure he suffered no mishap ahead of the clash with Germany.
Still the Icelanders came back. Lloris was forced to make a fine save – tipping the ball over his crossbar from Ingason’s header.
But he was beaten for the second time when Ari Skulason swung in a perfect cross and this time there was nothing the keeper could do as Birkir Bjarnason’s header zipped past him.
It had been a valiant effort by the underdogs and although, by now, any hope of saving the match was gone, they still found time to provide a further scare when, with four minutes remaining, French substitute Eliaquin Mangala was forced to hurriedly clear from a gaping goal when Birkir Saevarsson cut in from the right and took the outrushing Llloris out of the game with a low cross which just needed an Icelandic touch.
FRANCE: Lloris, Sagna, Umtiti, Koscielny (Mangala 72), Evra, Pogba, Matuidi, Sissoko, Griezmann, Payet (Coman 80), Giroud (Gignac 60). Subs Not Used: Mandanda, Jallet, Cabaye, Martial, Schneiderlin, Digne, Costil.
ICELAND: Halldorsson, Saevarsson, Arnason (Ingason 46), Ragnar Sigurdsson, S kulason, Gudmundsson, Gunnarsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Birkir Bjarnason, Sigthorsson (Gudjohnsen 83), Bodvarsson (Finnbogason 46). Subs Not Used: Kristinsson, Hauksson, Hermannsson, Sigurjonsson, Theodor Elmar Bjarnason, Magnusson, Hallfredsson, Traustason, Jonsson.