Les Blues are aiming for top spot in Group A with a win over the Swiss while Romania could snatch second in the group. Meanwhile Albania could make a late run at progressing to the knockout stages by finishing third if they winning too.
The French booked their place in the last sixteen with a last gasp win against Albania in Marseille last time out. It took them until the 90th minute to break the Red and Black Eagles’ resolve when Antoine Griezmann headed home from an Adil Rami cross. Player of the tournament Dimitri Payet rubbed salt into Albanian wounds with France’s second deep into stoppage time.
It was the second time in Euro 2016 that Didier Deschamps’ men have left the home nation’s fans with their hearts in their mouths. In the tournament’s curtain raiser they waited until the 90th minute to take a 2-1 lead against Romania, Payet was the scorer.
In the final round of games they face Switzerland with the intention of notching up their third win in as many games and tying up top spot in the group. 1st place in Group A will ensure they play the best 3rd place finisher of either C, D or E.
Switzerland remain unbeaten at Euro 2016 but have been far from convincing in the tournament so far. In the first game they dragged their heels on the way to a 1-0 victory over Albania. Vladmir Petkovic’s side were even helped by a Lorik Cana sending off, only Fabian Schar’s 5th minute header separated the sides.
Last time out against Romania the Swiss were not particularly good and have themselves to blame for not being able to join France in the last-16 yet after wasting numerous chances. Bogdan Stancu gave Romania the lead in the 18th minute but Admir Mehmedi struck in the 57th minute to ensure a 1-1 draw for Switzerland. It was the second of two tepid displays but the draw has put Petkovic’s men in a strong position to qualify for the knockout round.
Switzerland can nick top spot in Group A if they beat the hosts and can guarantee second place if they get a draw. A loss to favorites France though is still the most likely result, something they will be looking to avoid because lay in wait behind them is Romania who are still hanging in there.
The Romanians looked good value for their lead against the Swiss after Stancu scored his second penalty in as many games but were punished when Mehmedi pounced on a loose ball in the box to level the scores.
Against hosts France, Romania performed well. They threatened early and could’ve found themselves ahead had it not ben for some great goalkeeping from Hugo Lloris. They were only denied a famous point by a last-gasp Payet thunderbolt after Stancu scored a penalty to equalize.
Despite not yet scoring from open play at Euro 2016, Iordanescu’s side will fancy their chances at progressing in 2nd spot. They can achieve this with a win against Albania and France beating Switzerland. Progression still has the potential of being more or less secured even if they finish in 3rd place though.
We may see a more positive Romania than in previous games as they look to tie up a deserved spot in the last 16 either by coming second or with a decent goal difference by finishing third on four points with a win in the final group game.
Albania have performed like a group of Spartan warriors at Euro 2016 so far. In the opening game against Switzerland, even when a goal behind and down to ten men, they still looked like they could pull off an upset. When faced with the tournament hosts, they kept them at bay for 90 minutes and even hit the woodwork earlier in the game
The Red and Black Eagles have a very slim chance of reaching the knockouts after falling to two defeats. Even with a win against Romania, which would give them a deserved three points, they currently have a goal difference of minus three that will most definitely stand in their way of the last-16.
Group A As It Stands
Didier Deschamps could recall Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann to the starting eleven after nearly paying the price for resting them last time out against Albania. The France boss introduced the Juventus midfielder at half time to no avail and Griezmann after 68 mins. It was the Atletico Madrid forward who eventually broke the deadlock but throughout the game it was notable the amount of chances wasted by Giroud.
For that reason, we could see Andre-Pierre Gignac given a run out. He impressed off the bench in Marseille after emerging on 77 mins but it is clear that Giroud needs to get his shooting boots on if France are to stand a chance of winning the European Championships on home soil.
It is unlikely that France will shuffle their center back pairing due to a distinct lack of options but it will remain to be seen if Deschamps decides to give a rest to full-backs Sagna and Evra or midfielders Kante and Matuidi.
After the win against Albania Deschamps said: “Albania played with a lot of heart and spirit. I’m not saying they didn’t try to score, they have the ability to counter and they did that a lot in the first half.
“In the second we had a lot of chances but while it was goalless that was a good result for Albania. They got a lot of numbers in defense, and then it’s on us to find the answers. We didn’t do that in the first 45 minutes. We finally got going but it came late in the day.
“I retain the fact we have six points and have qualified. Certainly we didn’t do everything well but if you have seen a team do everything well over the past few days then show m
Predicted Line Up: Lloris; Sagna, Evra, Koscielny, Rami; Matuidi, Kante, Pogba; Griezmann, Payet; Giroud.
Vladmir Petkovic is likely to stick with the team he has played in the tournaments opening games. The Swiss have completed those two games unscathed without any injuries or suspensions to speak of. Granit Xhaka is carrying a booking and could be rested after putting in two man of the match performances so far.
Major tournaments aren’t exactly the time or place for experimenting but there is a slim chance we could see wunderkind Breel Embolo start in the game against France. Seferovic has been starting ahead of him but the Frankfurt striker was guilty of wasting some good chances against Romania.
“We created lots of chances but only managed to score one, unfortunately,” Petkovic said after the draw with Romania. “I’m not concerned about the lack of goals. You have to get into those positions first. We’ll now start looking forward to the France game and make sure we’re as prepared as we can be for that.”
He added: “After the first game I don’t think this criticism was justified. I hope you’ll be satisfied with our performance because I am.”
Predicted Line Up: Sommer; Lichtsteiner, Schar, Djourou, Rodriguez; Behrami, Xhaka, Mehmedi, Shaqiri, Dzemaili; Seferovic.
Anghel Iordanescu will need momentum in this must win game, for that reason he will do his utmost to stick with the side that gained a point against Switzerland despite some mounting injury problems.
Razvan Rat was removed after an hour and Pintilii injured his hand and was taken off at half time against the Swiss. Hoban replaced Pintilii who himself had been a major dount in the run up to the game.
“Pintilii has some physical problems. I don’t know if he will be ready for the next game,” Romania coach Anghel Iordanescu told a news conference. “Rat asked to be substituted. It’s difficult to say whether he will play.”
Predicted Line Up: Tatrusanu; Sapunaru, Chiriches, Grigore, Filip; Prepelita, Hoban, Torje, Stancu, Chipciu; Andone.
For Gianni de Biasi there is good news and bad news. The good news is that he is able to welcome back skipper Lorik Can who has served a one match suspension after being sent off in the opening game versus Switzerland. The bad news however is that midfielder Kukeli is suspended after he picked up his second booking ina s many games.
The suspension to Kukeli should see Taulant Xhaka return to the starting XI. He had been dropped to the subs bench after reacting badly to being substituted in the first game.
After the defeat to France the Albania boss said: “When I went into the dressing room heads were down, but I told the lads to pick them up and be proud of the way they played against a team with a lot of ability. We really caused problems for France.“We can beat Romania to qualify. If we can score the goals we haven’t so far we can definitely get the points we need to get into the next round. We’ve shown we’re a proper team and play good football.”
Predicted Line Up: Berisha; Hysaj, Cana, Mavraj, Agolli; T. Xhaka, Abrashi, Memushaj, E. Lenjani, Roshi; Sadiku.