Antoine Griezmann and Dmitri Payet Lead France Over Albania

Antoine Griezmann Scores Goal For France
Photo Credit To ESPN FC Twitter Feed

Dmitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann scored two late goals to help France beat Albania to qualify for the knockout stage of Euro 2016.

After two late goals from Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet, France is now officially qualified for Euro 2016’s knockout stage. The French beat a tenacious Albania squad 2-0 in their second Group A game on Wednesday.

A Close Contest In The First Half

Although considered the favorites to win the tournament, France initially had a hard time scoring against the Albanians. In a surprising move, Didier Deschamps chose to drop Paul Pogba and Griezmann from the starting XI. In their place, he started Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman and Manchester United’s Anthony Martial. It was pretty evident that France wanted to exploit their speed advantage with these two in the lineup.

The problem though was that the French were struggling to produce quality chances in the first half of the match. Yes, they were able to dominate the possessions game but their attempts to score weren’t effective.

Griezmann and Payet To The Rescue

The start of the second half was even more frustrating for the French as Albania nearly managed to score. Fortunately for France, a Ledian Memushaj attempt in the 52nd minute ended up just hitting the post. Olivier Giroud also attempted a goal for the French in the 69th minute that unfortunately hit the post.

It wasn’t until the 90th minute that France finally broke the deadlock with an Antoine Griezmann header from a cross by Adil Rami. Seemingly not contented with the goal, the hosts also added another one. This time it was Dimitri Payet who struck the dagger into the heart of the Albanian defense. The match-winner of the Romania game scored off of an impressive kick that sent the ball past two defenders and the Albanian goalie.

Questions Arise For France

Although France did get the win in the end, I’m now a little skeptical about their chances of winning the title. I could never understand why Didier Deschamps didn’t let Antoine Griezmann start for this match. Admittedly, Albania isn’t a threat but that also doesn’t mean that it’s okay for Deschamps to experiment with his lineups against them. Thankfully, the benching had no effect on Griezmann’s or the team’s performance for the rest of the match.

In contrast to France, Spain and Germany are actually looking quite good right now. Both teams sit on top of their respective groups and have shown solid form in their wins. The French are still the top bets thanks to their home court advantage but you wonder if they can continue with scoring late goals in the knockout rounds.

Romania Draws With Switzerland

In the other Group A match, Romania was able to hold Switzerland to a 1-1 draw. Bouncing back from the disappointing loss to the French, the Romanians now have their first point of the tournament. A Bogdan Stancu penalty gave Romania it’s first lead of the game against the heavily-favored Swiss.

The penalty was rewarded to Romania after Swiss right-back Stephan Lichsteiner took down Alexandar Chipciu in the 18th minute. Stancu then promptly sent Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer the wrong way in the ensuing penalty kick.

Not wanting to lose the crucial match, Switzerland turned to Admir Mehmedi in the second half. The Bayer Leverkusen forward drove home a thunderous leftie from 12 yards out to even things for the Swiss. Unfortunately, Switzerland would have a hard time scoring again. Thanks to their inability to finish off Romania, the Swiss missed a tie for first place in Group A. Though they’re currently trailing by 2 tournament points, they could still hope to qualify for the knockout phase if they win or draw against  France.

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