IT’s the start of the last round of group matches with Group A under the spotlight.
France aim to make sure of top spot against Switzerland in Lille, while Romania and Albania can still aspire to keep their tournament going into the knockout stages.
Can Didier Deschamps strike upon France’s magic formula?
DIDIER DESCHAMPS is a very lucky man. Not many coaches at the Euros could afford to drop Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann from their starting line-ups as he did for France’s game against Albania. Admittedly, he then had to throw the pair on when his side couldn’t break down the resilient Albanians and it was Griezmann’s 90th minute header that won the game. In the first game, it was the introduction of Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial that made an impact against Romania. But it means that Deschamps is still searching for the combination from the start that will turn Les Bleus into the team everyone is expecting.
Thankfully, Dimitri Payet has been on fire and France have two wins from two, so the confidence is still high, and there are question marks rather than doubts. They have already qualified for the knockout stages, but tonight against Switzerland, it’s another chance to see if everything clicks in search of the magic formula the whole of France hopes will lead them back to the Stade de France on July 10.
Player of the Day: N’Golo Kante
WHAT a season it has been for N’Golo Kante. A year ago, he had been plying his trade for Caen who had finished in a moderate 13th place in Ligue 1. But Leicester’s Head of Recruitment, Steve Walsh, saw something he liked and persuaded new Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri to spend £5.6 million to bring him to England. It was a masterstroke. Kante was an integral part of the Leicester side that stunned the football world by claiming the Premier League title.
His performances earned him a call up to the French national team for the March friendlies against Holland and Russia. Not only has he made the squad but he has been installed in the heart of midfield. And as they prepare to face the Swiss tonight, one irony is that Kante kept out Swiss captain Gokhan Inler from the Leicester side all season and as a result, Inler was dropped from the Euros because of a lack of game time. This week, a discussion was held on French television which said ‘Is Kante the new Claude Makelele?’ High praise indeed for one of Leicester’s success stories.
Is this the Euros’ USP?
AS we approach the final round of group games, only Italy and Ukraine have nothing at stake. Their positions are fixed but for the other 22, something is on the line. That is certainly the case when Romania and Albania meet in Lyon. In a 16-team tournament, the Albanians would already be out after two defeats and the Romanians would have a glimmer of hope with just a solitary point.
Here, in France, though, opportunity knocks. A victory for Anghel Iordanescu’s side would almost certainly take them through at worst as one of the four best third-placed teams. Even Albania can dream that a good win tonight and a bit of luck for the rest of the week could see them sneak into the last-16. However, the real hope for the neutrals is that the cloak of caution that has dogged the first 24 games of the Euros will be shed and teams will be forced to gamble with their place in the finals on the line. Hopefully that will produce more goals and more excitement.
French of the Day: mettre la balle au fond des filets (to put the ball in the back of the net)
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