Mark O’Haire’s Euro Tips – Romania v Albania
Third-place is up for grabs in Euro 2016 Group A on Sunday night as winless Romania take on pointless Albania in Lyon.
Romania v Albania, Sunday 19th June 2016 (20.00), TV3
With only two third-place finishers missing out a spot in the knockout stages, both nations know victory would give them a great shot at stealing one of those Last-16 berths, meaning there’s plenty still to play for.
Romania picked up their first point when holding Switzerland to a hard-fought draw at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday. Anghel Iordanescu’s troops were resolute enough to keep alive their hopes of qualification but came under plenty of early pressure.
Switzerland dominated possession, had 19 attempts and failed to take several early chances before Bogdan Stancu’s second penalty of the tournament gave the Tricolorii an 18th-minute lead in Paris.
Romania remained dangerous on the break and the Swiss had to wait until the 57th minute to equalise. And for the second successive game, a sweet strike cost Iordanescu’s boys the points.
However, this Tricolorii display was much better than in their Dimitri Payet-inspired defeat to hosts France in the tournament curtain-raiser.
Alexandru Chipciu was a constant threat with his pace down the left and Romania did come close to a second goal when Cristian Sapunaru swivelled to shoot against the post when a free-kick dropped at his feet.
Still, Ciprian Tatarusanu was called into regular first-half action and the hard-working Romanians have now managed just three victories in their last 13 fixtures coming into this final pool contest.
Albania have failed to score a goal or register a point but the European Championship debutants welcome back captain Lorik Cana from suspension, and have played well in both their two losses thus far.
Late goals from Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet saw France pinch maximum points in the Black Eagles’ last outing but the minnows had struck the post in a rare foray into French territory beforehand.
The hosts scored with the game’s only two shots-on-target and struggled to break down Albania stubborn resistance. Giovanni de Biasi’s side showed few nerves amid a partisan atmosphere and quietened the home crowd with a dogged display.
Attacks of their own may have been sporadic but the Balkan country can be proud of their efforts in Marseille and will now be hoping to sign-off the group-stage with the result their efforts merit.
Romania have been chalked up as 11/10 favourites here but Albania hold much more appeal at 3/4 in the Double Chance market, where we’ll be paid out should the Black Eagles avoid defeat.
The lowest ranked nation don’t tend to be involved in thrillers – only 10/19 (53%) of Albania’s competitive games since Euro 2012 have featured more than two goals whilst the Black Eagles have lost only 15/41 (37%) of games since October 2011 and never by more than two goals.
Romania’s aforementioned win record is poor – the Tricolorii also failed to top a qualification group featuring Northern Ireland – and like Albania, goals have tended to be at a premium.
Dearth Of Goals
Romania’s Euro 2016 opener was only their ninth in 24 competitive clashes to have featured Over 2.5 Goals. During qualification, Iordanescu’s men saw nine of their 10 matches produce Under 2.5 Goals winners with Both Teams To Score banking only twice.
So whilst there’s a clear trend that points to the final group-game of European Championships featuring goals, I remain unconvinced this showdown will follow the stats.
Therefore, backing Under 2.5 Goals at 3/4 is preferred.
Albania double chance (3/4)
Under 2.5 Goals (3/4)
*Prices correct at time of publication