France, Switzerland in Euro 2016 quarters; Albania await fate (Roundup)

Lille (France), June 20 (IANS) Switzerland held hosts France to a goalless draw in their last Group A match here to book a berth in the round of 16 of the Euro 2016 football tournament.

France, who had already qualified with two wins, topped the group with seven points, followed by Switzerland with five points. Switzerland had beaten Albania 1-0 and drew with Romania 1-1 in their earlier matches, reports Xinhua.

Albania finally recorded their first point in Sunday night’s other game defeating Romania 1-0 to finish third with three points. They will have to wait to find out if they go through as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Romania were sent packing with only one point.

“We played well and held firm. We’re through, we can rest up and it’s for other sides to push to play against us,” Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic said.

France manager Didier Deschamps defended his decision to field an under-strength squad.

“I am not blind. I realise we are capable of better performances, but a second competition is beginning right now for us. It will begin next Sunday, we have got a long week and time to get prepared,” he said.

“Technically Switzerland did some really good things as well, but we had the best chances. We can’t say they had a lot. With more composure and a bit of luck, we could have won this game. In terms of controlling the game, we should be able to do more and to avoid having to do so much defending.”

Switzerland dominated possession but created no clear cut chances. It was France who should have gone ahead thanks to efforts of their strikers Paul Pogba and Dimitri Payet.

In the 13th minute, Pogba raced down from on high, played a one-two with Kingsley Coman and then fired a shot with left foot from a narrow angle. Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer stopped it with a one-handed save.

Four minutes later, the Juventus star lashed a left-footer from 25 metres, but his effort hit the crossbar. He then initiated another attack in the 58th minute. After fine team work with Andre-Pierre Gignac, he had a drive tipped over by a busy Sommer.

Payet, who was sent on in the second half, hit the underside of the crossbar in the 75th minute and saw their chance of winning all three games evaporate.

Sommer was named the man of the match for his great saves and Deschamps said: “When the goalkeeper is Man of the Match, that shows we had chances. You can always criticise players; I know the players are well aware that we can improve in a number of different areas. That said, but for a great goalkeeper and a few centimetres, or being more clinical, we could have scored goals.”

Meanwhile in Lyon, Albania defeated Romania 1-0 in Group A in Lyon in one of the biggest upsets of Euro 2016. Armando Sadiku’s first-half header, his country’s first ever goal at a major tournament, sealed the historic victory.

Gianni De Biasi’s men held on in the second half amid heavy Romania pressure, and subsequently gave themselves a genuine chance of qualifying for the knockout stages.

De Biasi admitted that the Albanian squad face a nervous wait over the next few days.

“We will have to prepare as if we have to play the Friday or Saturday. In the meantime we will be watching the other games,” the 60-year-old manager said.

“If we stay in this tournament, we will give trouble to other teams, even important teams. We had more confidence tonight. We needed the first games to settle into the tournament,” he added.

–IANS

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