France narrowly scraped past Romania in their tournament opener thanks to a wondrous Dimitri Payet strike late in the game. This time around, Les Blues will leave nothing to chance against an Albanian team who only last year beat Didier Deschamps’ side 1-0 in a friendly in Elbasan.
Since losing out to Italy in the final of the 2006 World Cup, the French haven’t come close to challenging for top honours in a major international tournament. However, given the influx of immense talent in the Les Blues squad along with the comforts of hosting the tournament, France have been tagged favourites to win the competition on home soil.
Following a two-year absence from competitive football, France’s re-entry onto the scene against Romania wasn’t the most convincing, with Didier Deschamps’ side forced to rely on a last gasp winner from West Ham United’s Dimitri Payet to win them three precious points.
The overall work-rate from the French was good on the night, but their finishing didn’t quite match the effort made in build-up play. With no injury worries for France ahead of their second group stage encounter against Albania, Deschamps is expected to field a similar starting line-up in a 4-3-3 formation.
Arsenal star Olivier Giroud, who scored the opening goal against Romania, is set to lead the attack flanked by Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet. While Paul Pogba didn’t have his best day at Saint Denis, N’Golo Kante impressed, keeping control of midfield and warding off any threats building up in front of the back four. The duo — along with Blaise Matuidi — are expected to keep their place against Gianni De Biassi’s side.
The relatively new centre-back pairing of Adil Rami and the man rumoured to be Arsenal’s next captain, Laurent Koscielny, were solid on the opening night, and although they are yet to convince fans and pundits on the success of their pairing, they too will be expected to keep their place at the expense of Lyon’s Samuel Umtiti. Although Patrice Evra conceded the penalty that let Romania back into the game, the Juventus left-back could keep his spot in the team along with Bacary Sagna.
Albania’s pressing game in a 4-3-3 formation enables them to create a fair amount of opportunities to score. However, De Biassi’s side were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal against Switzerland in a narrow 1-0 loss. The Shqiponjat will be without Lorik Cana in defence, with the captain suspended owing to his sending-off against the Swiss. Ergys Kace could compete with the likes of Frederic Veseli or Arlind Ajeti for that vacant centre-back role as De Biassi looks to fill the gigantic hole left in defence by the absence of Cana.