Game of the Day: France vs. Albania, Marseille, 20:00
In the world of tournament football, 5 days is an eternity. We’ve had the brilliance of Germany’s counter attacking sucker punch against the Ukrainians, Italy emerging from also-rans to favourites with their 2-0 victory over Belgium and obviously the scenes of Russia’s new breed of footballing madman acting indefensibly in (and around) the Stade Vélodrome. Now we return to the site of such unsavoury scenes 4 days ago with the hosts entertaining the underdogs.
France’s group seems simple enough but their performance against the Romanians in the opening the game suggests that France need to raise their game if they are to fulfil the potential of the nation.
Three points is three points but France’s lacked the sparkle that is so rife in its squads individuals – bar the enigmatic Payet. Whilst Paul Pogba’s disappearance may be a cause for concern for France, as well as the Antoine Greizmann’s mixed game, Dimitri Payet was a class above and duly delivered the hopes of a nation.
An assist and goal is one thing but scoring that goal is something else. A touch with his right foot that found both space and left his marker reeling was majestic but to then have the self-belief on France’s biggest stage to curl a left footed shot into the top left hand corner was just breath-taking.
Albania meanwhile perhaps fared better than anticipated in their opening game against Switzerland. Albania’s progression from the group was always going to be tough, their final will come against Romania in the final round of games, but considering they played roughly an hour with a one man disadvantage, Giovanni De Biasi will take some comfort from the chances Albania went on to create.
Whilst Albania will go into this game once more as underdogs, France will be wary that a similar level of performance similar to the Romanian game then questions will certainly start being asked whether this France side can emulate the likes of their 1984 success and win the European Championship on home soil.
Paul Pogba may feel that he is bearing the burden of a nation’s hopes and Didier Deschamps will need to try and create an environment where potentially France’s must gifted midfielder since Zinedine Zidane feels able to express himself on the ball. Reports emerging from France however state that Deschamps may be shake things up with both a formation and a personnel change.
AS have reported that according L’Equipe, Deschamps is contemplating dropping both Pogba and Greizmann and replacing them with Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman. This would also bring about a change of formation – from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 with Blaise Matuidi and Kante playing deeper behind Martial, Payet and Coman.
There are reasons for encouragement however for France, regardless of what formation they play, with Olivier Giroud maintaining his impressive recent goal scoring for record for France and then there is always Dimitri Payet, who, if France go on to win the tournament, could become a nation’s hero.
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog