France eye Swiss bliss route to Euro 2016 last 16


Paris (AFP) – Already assured of a place in the last 16 of Euro 2016, hosts France are looking to round off Group A with a third straight win when they face Switzerland in Lille on Sunday.

Despite a 100 percent record, Didier Deschamps’s men have so far failed to deliver on their status of pre-tournament favourites, needing late winners to see off the challenge of Romania and Albania.

Underwhelming performances and controversy surrounding Juventus star Paul Pogba has dogged a Les Bleus side in need of a statement win like their 5-2 thrashing of the Swiss at the World Cup two years ago.

Dropped for Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Albania in Marseille, Pogba came on at half-time and helped set up the second goal for Dimtri Payet deep into stoppage time with a trademark crossfield pass.

However, his reaction — an explicit pump of the arm, apparently directed at the press box — caused a scandal and, despite the 23-year-old insisting it was not offensive, it has placed him squarely in the media spotlight.

Pogba was expected to be one of the stars of the tournament with French sports daily L’Equipe splashing his image across its front page on the first day of the tournament.

Instead his antics in Marseille brought to mind less savoury incidents from France’s recent and stormy football past, such as unsavoury outbursts from Samir Nasri towards journalists at Euro 2012.

Deschamps said he was satisfied with the player’s story.

“He’s given me his explanation and I trust him,” the coach said on Saturday.

Pogba should get the chance to redeem himself on the pitch with Deschamps likely to rotate his talented squad once more.

N’Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud could be rested as they are just one yellow card away from missing the last 16 through suspension.

Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann, who also came off the bench to score the vital opening goal against Albania, looks certain to recover his place up front.

– Romania eye last 16 –

The two sides at the bottom of Group A meet in Lyon with Romania aiming to make the knockout stages by extending their eight-match unbeaten record against Albania.

Romania, who have a single point from their draw with Switzerland, can qualify in second with a win allied to a French victory over the Swiss.

Albania also have an outside chance of making the last 16, despite two defeats from two matches on their debut at a major finals, but need to win by multiple goals to have a chance of progressing as one of the four best third-placed teams from the six groups.

The Romanians hope to have Razvan Rat, Mihai Pintilii and Steliano Filip fit, despite all three carrying injuries.

Albania have Burim Kukeli suspended for picking two yellow cards, but captain Lorik Cana returns from suspension.

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