Move up a gear for Albania, Deschamps tells France


Marseille (AFP) – France coach Didier Deschamps has called on Les Bleus to move up a gear against an Albania side that he insisted could trouble the Euro 2016 hosts.

Deschamps’ men earned the perfect start to the competition with a 2-1 win over Romania at the Stade de France in Paris last Friday.

But at times, it was a nervous performance and the hosts were only rescued in the final minutes when West Ham midfielder Dmitri Payet fired home a cracking long-range effort to seal a 2-1 win over their Group A rivals.

France meet Albania at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome on Wednesday, a venue Deschamps knows well having won the league title twice there as a player and once as coach of the French giants.

But, despite the Balkan minnows starting their competition debut with a 1-0 defeat to Switzerland and missing captain Lorik Cana through suspension after his early red card, Deschamps remains cautious.

Although he expects a “red hot atmosphere” at a “real football stadium”, Deschamps wants France to move up a gear against a “well organised” and defensively-minded side.

“They (Albania) are a very well-organised team,” Deschamps told media in Marseille on Tuesday.

“With an Italian coach it’s quite logical they defend well but even with 10 men against Switzerland, they were still in the match and were unlucky not to level at the end.”

Media speculation suggested Deschamps will shake things up in his starting XI following mediocre performances by Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann.

The 47-year-old Deschamps refused to be drawn on questions on either player, but said: “I would like us to control things a little better, and for us to get the ball up the pitch a bit quicker.

“Romania did a lot of pressing up front and shut down space and, at times, we took some risks and we weren’t sharp.

“Obviously the quicker and more fluid you are, the better it is for us.”

A France win would leave the hosts with six points from their two opening games, enough to virtually guarantee their place in the last 16 knockout phase. 

But Deschamps wants a clean sweep of wins in the group, a feat that would — perhaps like 1998 when he was part of the team that won the World Cup — stir the French public’s imagination as the hosts look to end their 16-year wait for the title.

“We’re only at the second match and so I don’t want to start looking too far ahead,” said Deschamps.

“We have to focus on winning this match first, but for sure, we want to finish top of our group.”

However, Deschamps played down comparisons with the 1998 team that united a nation with their maiden World Cup win.

“1998 was personal for me and this competition should be about the players who are here. Today, the public are already enthusiastic about the team, but it’s been like that since our preparation camp and friendly games.”

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