France effected yet another late heart-break on their opponents with Albania suffering a cruel double blow in the dying minutes of the game to seal the hosts passage through to the knockouts. Elsewhere Slovakia earned their first points with victory over an insipid Russian side. The Swiss meanwhile were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw in a Group A clash with Romania.
A 2-0 victory for Didier Deschamps’ side against Albania at Marseille effectively sealed progress through to the knock-outs and the group winner could be decided in Les Bleus final group clash against Switzerland at Lille.
The Swiss were held to a frustrating draw by Anghel Iordanescu’s Romania who for close to an hour were ahead of Vladimir Petkovic’s side owing to an early penalty put away by Bogdan Stancu.
Elsewhere in Group B, a superlative performance from Marek Hamsik helped Slovakia to a 2-1 victory over an uninspiring Russian side who look primed for an early exit with Wales left to face in their final group game.
Russia 1-2 Slovakia
Slovakia were unlucky not to come away with any points against Wales in their group opener having well and truly matched Gareth Bale’s side through the ninety minutes. However, the Slovaks looked to have taken the experience from that defeat in their stride and came out with an authoritative display over a Russian side lacking threat and initiative on the night.
Marek Hamsik kicked-off proceedings in style after releasing Vladimir Weiss with a defence splitting pass in the 23rd which the latter eventually converted, slotting the ball past Igor Akinfeev. There was yet more to come from the Hamsik-show as the Napoli midfielder unleashed a sumptuous strike from distance just before half-time to effectively seal Slovakia’s first European Championship victory.
Russia posed no threat on Slovakia’s goal until they sneaked back into the game courtesy of a headed goal off Denis Glushakov in the 80th minute to make it 2-1 in favour of the Slovaks. With that loss, Leonid Slutsky’s side now have to win their final game against the Welsh if they are to have any chance of qualification.
That said, further crowd trouble instigated by Russian supporters last night could invite trouble and a possible disqualification having already been issued a final warning for the violence ensuing the England vs Russia game.
Man of the Match : Marek Hamsik
Rating : 8/10
Romania 1-1 Switzerland
The challenge here for Vladimir Petkovic and his players was to write a new chapter of success; to fire qualification to the knockout phase of the European Championship for the first time.
After receiving a lot of flak for their disjointed performance against Albania, Petkovic will be happy with what his side dished out against the Romanians. The Swiss were more attack minded on the night, and as has been the case for big teams this tournament, it was their finishing that betrayed many a good build-up play.
It was however the Romanians who took the lead through an early Bogdan Stancu penalty to rattle up the Swiss. The equalizer though came just before the hour mark when Arsenal target Ricardo Rodriguez whipped in a corner that ricocheted off Johan Djourou into the path of Admir Mehmedi who rifled in a thunderous left footed strike through a crowded defence past Ciprian Tătăruşanu’s goal.
New Arsenal signing Granit Xhaka had a terrific game for the Swiss controlling the play in midfield showing great possession in distribution in a performance that will have the Gunners’ fans buzzing with excitement.
Man of the Match : Granit Xhaka
Player rating : 7.5/10
France 2-0 Albania
France are enduring a rather stuttering yet cliffhanger of a campaign so far at the Euros effecting a late winner for a second game in a row to complete their progress through to the knockouts. It was Antoinne Griezmann this time who scored late in the 90th minute through a header off an Adil Rami cross to send Marseille and the whole of France into ecstacy.
West Ham’s Dimitri Payet once again had the final say as he netted his second goal of the campaign in the 95th minute to leave Albania needing a win against Romania to take keep them in the running for qualification through to the knockouts. Didier Deschamps’ surprisingly snubbed Antoinne Griezmann and Paul Pogba after the duo had a disappointing outing in the first game, with Manchester United’s Anthony Martial and Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman taking their place.
Martial had a very poor outing and was eventually replaced at half time for Pogba following which Les Bleus looked more comfortable in possession and managed to put pressure on the Albanians in the second half. Griezmann came through for Coman with the Atletico Madrid striker motivated to perform well following his snub and gave the French their much needed break-through late in the game.
Dimitri Payet once again impressed the most for Didier Deschamps’ men on the night and will for the remainder of the tournament be the first name on the starting line-up for the French.
Man of the Match : Dimitri Payet
Player rating : 8/10