In today’s European Championships review we see France progress into the Round of 16 with a late show against plucky Albania, and Russia is in deep trouble after being turned over by Slovakia.
Host nations France become the first team to qualify for the knockout stages of the European Championships after a hard earned victory over the Albanians at the magnificent Stade Velodrome in Marseille.
Didier Deschamps side left it late against the Romanians in the opening game of the tournament, and they left it even later against the European minnows with goals coming in the 90th and 96th minute to break down Albania’s stubborn resistance.
The French manager showed the fans that he wasn’t afraid to make the big decisions after leaving Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann out of the starting eleven. The dynamism of Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman preferred.
It was a game of few chances. France had all of the ball. Albania worked their socks off. It was the favourites versus the rank outsiders although Albania did come into the match knowing they had beaten France a year earlier, and also put Portugal on their ass during the qualifying campaign.
Despite French dominance, Albania nearly took the lead when a scramble in the six-yard box resulted in the ball striking the base of the French post. Olivier Giroud made it 1-1 in strikes against the woodwork when he also hit the post with a towering header.
Desperately in need of a goal, Deschamps told Griezmann to get off the naughty boys step, and the Atletico Madrid forward nodded home a Rami cross from the right to give France a much-deserved lead in the 90th minute of the game.
Albania surged forward after the fourth official motioned for five minutes of injury time. Holes appeared at the back. France broke on several occasions, the last of which saw the little magician Dmitri Payet cut inside from the left to squeeze the ball past the Albanian goalkeeper to make it 2-0 with virtually the last kick of the game.
The victory means the French only need a point against Switzerland to top the group after Vladimir Petkovic’s side were held to a 1-1 draw against Romania. Bogdan Stancu scored his second goal of the tournament, both from the penalty spot, to give Romania the lead in the 18th minute. Admir Mehmedi ensured Switzerland’s unbeaten run continued with the equaliser in the 57th minute.
France 2 v 1 Romania
Switzerland 1 v 0 Albania
Switzerland 1 v 1 Romania
France 2 v 0 Albania
1. France 6 pts
2. Switzerland 4 pts
3. Romania 1 pts
4. Albania 0 pts
Russia’s Misery Continues
Could things get any worse for Russia?
After being fined £119,000 and handed a suspended disqualification for their role in the violence that has marred the start of the championships, Russia’s off the field problems followed them onto the field after a dismal display against Slovakia.
The first 30-minutes contained scant glimpses of entertainment. Minutes 30-45 made up for it. It was Slovakia that created the breakthrough. Russia’s Igor Smolnikov had been charging up and down the right flank like an Elon Musk Hyperloop train when Marek Hamsik spotted his absence at the back to send Vladimir Weiss through on goal. Smolnikov came charging back but completely overcooked his run leaving Weiss with a clear shot on goal that he put away with ruthless precision.
Then with both sets of teams preparing to eat some oranges and drink some hot Bovril, Hamsik picked up a short corner on the edge of the box, turned, faced the goal, and scored a stunner to send Slovakia into the break with a seemingly unassailable two-goal lead.
Russia doesn’t do the chasing game. With the lumbering Artem Dzyuba, the only recognised striker in the squad they are a team with very few goals. And it showed. Slovakia hardly looked threatened at the back, although they did have to see out the final 10 minutes chewing on fingernails. Denis Glushakov heading a consolation goal for the team who will be sent packing from the competition if their fans kick off once more when England face Wales in Lens tomorrow afternoon. At this rate, it won’t matter. Their team would have done the hard work for them.
Wales 2 v 1 Slovakia
England 1 v1 Russian
Slovakia 2 v 1 Russia
1. Wales 3pts
2. Slovakia 3pts
3. England 1pts
4. Russia 1pts