Mark O’Haire’s Euro Tips – France v Albania
France kicked Euro 2016 off with a 2-1 triumph over Romania thanks to a spectacular late winner from Dimitri Payet at the Stade de France last Friday.
France v Albania, Wednesday 15th June 2016, 20.00, ITV
On an emotional evening, Les Blues’ star-studded attack had to wait until the 58th minute to make the breakthrough, when Olivier Giroud headed home Payet’s cross. But Romania responded within seven minutes, with Bogdan Stancu scoring from the penalty spot.
A draw looked the most likely outcome until Payet capped a brilliant individual display with his wonder goal in the 89th minute. The West Ham star made seven key passes and one assist, as well as his winning goal, in a Man of the Match display.
Payet apart, the hosts’ performance was unconvincing. For the whole of France, only the result mattered but after Antoine Griezmann’s header hit the post early on, Les Blues struggled to find any fluency against a resolute Romania side, who also created good chances.
On top of the lack of balance in midfield, Didier Deschamps’ hosts were worryingly open at the back. Their makeshift central defensive partnership of Adil Rami and Laurent Koscielny has played only two games together before this tournament and it showed.
Nevertheless, the victory marked the ninth game in 10 that France had scored at least two goals and with the likes of Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman to call upon from the bench, the squad is well-stocked in attacking talent to out-fire the majority of continental opponents.
Albania head to Marseille for this meeting without skipper Lorik Cana who was sent off in their hotly contested 1-0 loss to Switzerland in Lens.
The 10-men were denied a historic point by goalkeeper Etrit Berisha’s mistake from a corner, plus Armando Sadiku and Shkelzen Gashi’s profligate finishing in front of goal. Swiss stopper Yann Sommer producing vital saves against both to leave Albanian fans aghast.
Black Eagles boss Giovanni de Biasi was furious with his side’s missed chances. Before Euro 2016, no Albanian notched more than during qualifying and the powder-puff minnows managed fewer than five attempts on-goal from inside the box from their completed seven qualifiers.
The lowest ranked nation don’t excel in the offensive third but de Biasi remained encouraged by his team’s display against the Swiss. Certainly France’s defensive frailties give Albania hope of pinching a goal but earning just a fourth win in 11 looks unlikely considering previous triumphs came against Qatar, Luxembourg and Armenia.
Super Stats Speak Volumes
Only 10/18 (55%) of Albania’s competitive games since Euro 2012 have featured more than two goals whilst the Black Eagles have lost only 14/40 (35%) of games since October 2011 and never by more than two goals.
With that in mind, siding with France to follow a familiar European Championship group-stage theme and win 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 at 11/8 ties in nicely with the trends as well as informed opinion.
France to win 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 (11/8)
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