Games of the Day
Switzerland vs. France, Lille, 20:00
Romania vs. Albania, Lyon, 20:00
France – 6pts
Switzerland – 4pts
Romania – 1pt
Albania – 0pts
Just like that, we are at the beginning of the end for the group stages of Euro 2016 and what a tournament so far. The tournament may not be bursting at the seams with goals but goals don’t always lead to excitement as Spain proved in their demolition of Turkey.
France have somewhat become the late goal specialists. In a tournament where late goals have come to characterise this championship, it seems only fitting that the hosts themselves have mastered the last gasp winner.
Whether it was Dimitri Payet’s worldie of a goal in the 89th minute against Romania or Antoine Griezmann coming off the bench to break the deadlock against Albania at the death, any tournament needs the hosts to perform and France are duly injecting their own championships with excitement.
A caveat of all this excitement is that France, for all their thrills, have looked incredibly ordinary and hardly emblematic of their tournament favourite tag. Didier Deschamps call to drop Griezmann and Pogba was hardly justified with an insipid first half performance against Albania. Deschamps can rightly point to his substitutions working once more in the second half but France will surely be looking for a more complete performance to truly announce their arrival as potential winners.
As for the rest of the group, the battle for second place will go down to the wire. With Switzerland likely being the clichéd ‘underdog’ against France and Romania favourites for the Albania clash, Group A’s final standings is hardly set in stone.
Switzerland’s performance so far in this tournament have left much to be desired. With the likes of Granit Xhaka, Xhedran Shaqiri and Ricardo Rodriguez, this Swiss team have a whole host of players playing in the top flights across Europe but a cagey victory over Albania was only met with a come-from-behind point against Romania. Switzerland might be able to still win the group, but they could still come third if results go against them.
Romania and Albania always seemed likely to be the battle for third place but both teams have actually impressed in this group stage. Neither squads score a hatful of goals but it is a testament to both Anghel Iordanescu and Gianni Di Biasi (the Albanian performance against France really was something the Italian can be proud of) that neither Romania and Albania have come to France to completely shut up shop and sit 10 behind the ball. It was always going to be tough for either nation to qualify but their respective campaigns are hardly a disaster and with Romania, can they really finish second in this group?
With France likely to rest the likes Olivier Giroud and N’Golo Kanté as any yellow cards are scrubbed off as we move into the knock outs, France will once more look a little different against the Swiss. The French squad is more than capable however of replacing both players and it will be shock if France don’t at least pick up a point.
Romania against Albania will be a cagey affair, as both nations will look to the expanded tournament format and a potential place in the Round of 16. Either team will undoubtedly be one of the weaker sides if they do qualify but as we have seen from Hungary in this tournament already, it doesn’t mean shocks can’t occur.
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog