Group A of Euro 2016 comes to a conclusion on Sunday, as Romania and Albania go head-to-head, while Didier Deschamps' hosts France face neighbours Switzerland. Both teams need a win to have a chance of making the knockout stages.
Romania have collected just one point from their two games so far, with both of their goals coming from the penalty spot. Anghel Iordanescu’s side have looked limited going forward so far and it is hardly surprising considering that they scored just 11 goals in qualification.
Their strength is defence, having conceded just twice in qualifying they have conceded three times in their opening games. Iordanescu’s side have a very respectable record in recent months, having suffered just two defeats in their last 22 outings, although a lot of those games did result in draws.
Romania also have a very good record against Albania, having won 12 of their 16 meetings, with Albania winning just twice. Albania have also never beaten Romania in eight competitive meetings, with Romania winning six and two games finishing in draws. Iordanescu’s side will go into this clash as favourites.
Albania have lost both of their games in France, but have produced two decent displays against Switzerland and France. Both games the Eagles have put in solid defensive displays, but were eventually broken down.
Their attacking prowess has not yet been fully displayed due to circumstances, as they were reduced to ten men in their opening game and then were slightly cautious against a very talented French team in their last outing.
Gianni De Blasi’s side’s lack of goals is not a surprise either, as they scored just ten goals to make it to their first ever European Championships. Albania will have to go for victory in this clash if they are to have any hope of making the knockout stages, as only a win give them the possibility of making the knockout stages.
In the other game in the group hosts France face Switzerland in Lille, as both teams look to secure top spot in the group.
Switzerland have picked-up four in their two games in France and are in a good position to secure second spot. Unlike some of their group rivals Switzerland were relatively free-scoring in qualifying scoring 24 goals.
However, Vladimir Petkovic’s team have not been at their best going forward in the group. Star playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri has been underwhelming so far and much more will be expected of the Stoke star if as expected his team make it to the knockout stages.
Hosts France have won both their group games so far, but have not been convincing in the wins over Romania or Albania. Les Bleus have needed late goals in both games to win their matches against inferior teams.
Didier Deschamps team’s record in recent months has been impressive, as they have won 11 of their last 12 outings, with the exception being a 2-0 defeat by England in the wake of terror attacks in Paris.
France boss Deschamps may choose to rest some of his key players in an attempt to keep them fresh for the knockout stages. The likes of Olivier Giroud and Blaise Matuidi have under-perform and they could be rested or dropped for this clash.
Even not at full strength France will head into this game as favourites and should have enough quality in the starting line-up to win the game. A draw will be enough to ensure that France tops the group and Switzerland go through as runners-up.
Day nine at Euro 2016 produced win for Belgium and draws for Iceland and Hungary as well as Portugal and Austria.
The first game of the day came from Group E, as Belgium comfortably defeated Republic of Ireland 3-0 in Bordeaux. The first half was goalless, but the Red Devils did not take long to establish a lead after the break scoring on 48 minutes.
Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne found Romelu Lukaku 20 yards away from goal, the Everton striker controlled the ball before curling a superb effort beyond the dive of Ireland ‘keeper Darren Randolph.
Marc Wilmots team doubled their lead just after the hour mark, as central midfielder Axel Witsel headed home from inside the penalty area. Lukaku added his second on 70 minutes sliding the ball past Randolph from close range after Eden Hazard unselfishly squared the ball to the big forward.
The win put the Red Devils back in contention to finish top of the group, while Ireland face Italy in their last group, but could still qualify with a victory, depending on other results.
The action then switched to Group F, as Hungary and Iceland drew 1-1 in Marseille. Hungary dominated possession in the first half, but it was Iceland that took the lead on 39 minutes. Aron Gunnarsson was brought down in the area by Tamas Kadar and Gylfi Sigurdsson sent Gabor Kiraly the wrong way with the resulting spot kick.
Iceland looked to be heading for a historic win, but with just three minutes left on the clock Hungary equalised. Hungary substitute Nemanja Nikolic cut the ball back from the right and Iceland defender Birkir Saevarsson slid in and diverted the ball past his own ‘keeper.
Hungary are on the brink of qualification, but face Portugal in their last group game, while Iceland will need to win their last group game against Austria to have a chance to make the knockout stages.
Portugal and Iceland were involved in a goalless draw in the other game of the group. The Portuguese dominated possession and had the better chances in front of goal, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani missing good opportunities. In the end Fernando Santos’ team could not find a way past the Austrian defence.
Both teams still have a chance of making it to the knockout stages of the competition, but the group is pretty open going into the game week three.
Day nine preview
Attention turns to Group E on day nine, as Belgium face the Republic of Ireland in Bordeaux. Both teams are looking for their first wins of the competition following a defeat and a draw respectively in their opening games.
Belgium’s status as the competition’s highest ranking team looked highly dubious in their 2-0 opening game defeat against Italy. The highly-talented group of individuals failed to come together as a team on the big stage and the experienced Italians took advantage to record the win.
The Red Devils will have to produce a better display against Ireland, particularly Everton’s want-away Striker Romelu Lukaku, who missed some good opportunities against the Azzurri.
With Italy already qualified from the group, a win is highly necessary in this clash. The omens are with Marc Wilmots side though, as they have not lost against Ireland for 50 years and have also not lost in the seven competitive matches between the pair.
The Republic of Ireland produced a very good performance in their opening game against Sweden and will argue that they deserved more than a 1-1 draw. Martin O’Neill’s side will have to produce another spirited display in this clash against the highly-rated Belgians.
A win for Ireland would put them in a decent position to make the last 16, although their last game in the group is against group leaders Italy.
The evening game comes from Group F, as surprise packages Iceland and Hungary go head-to-head following highly creditable results in their group openers.
Iceland produced a solid display in their opening game drawing 1-1 with Portugal. Lars Lagerback’s debutants equipped themselves very well in qualifying and their only game performance showed that they are not to be taken lightly in France.
The Scandinavians will be aware that history is against them when it comes to games with Hungary, as they have suffered defeat in seven of the ten meetings between the pair. In fact Hungary have won the last five games.
However, Iceland head into this clash as slight favourites against a Hungarian team that also like to upset the odds. Bernd Stork’s side caused a massive surprise with a 2-0 win over the highly-rated Austria in their group opener.
Hungary were regarded as one of the poorest teams at the competition by many, but a win could see them through the knockout stages of the competition.
In the other game in the group sees Portugal and Austria looking to atone for disappointing open game results and performances.
Portugal’s 1-1 draw with Iceland was regarded as a massive blow, especially with a tricky game against Austria to come. In truth Fernando Santos’ side just did not have the necessary guile to break down the Scandinavians.
However, a win in this game could change the complexion of the group for Cristiano Ronaldo and co, as could a win for Austria.
Marcel Koller’s side kick-off in France as one of the dark horses for the competition, but their 2-0 opening game defeat has dampened expectations and brought them back to earth. This game is a difficult one, especially without suspended centre-back Aleksandar Dragovic.
However, they must produce a performance and can ill-afford another defeat if they are to have any hope of making the knockout stages.