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Sunday , February 23 2020

France top group as Albania claim historic win – Swiss feature in KO phase for 1st time

France’s Adil Rami kicks the head of Switzerland’s Admir Mehmedi during the EURO 2016 Group A soccer match between Switzerland and France at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve d’Ascq, near Lille, France on June 19. (AP)
France’s Adil Rami kicks the head of Switzerland’s Admir Mehmedi during the EURO 2016 Group A soccer match between Switzerland and France at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve d’Ascq, near Lille, France on June 19. (AP)

LILLE, France, June 20, (AFP): Euro 2016 hosts France secured top spot in Group A with a goalless draw against Switzerland in Lille that also took their opponents through to the knockout stage.

Meanwhile, Albania recorded a historic first win at a major tournament as they defeated Romania 1-0 in Lyon thanks to a solitary goal by Armando Sadiku, and the Balkan underdogs now face a nervous few days as they wait to find out if they will progress as one of the best third-place teams.

Didier Deschamps’s France side, for whom Paul Pogba shone through in a poor game, can look forward to a theoretically easier draw in the next round.

The Swiss will feature in the knockout phase of a European Championship for the first time.

“We had the chances and hit the bar twice. We were there to secure first place and we did it, so it is mission accomplished,” France coach Deschamps told TV station M6.

Pogba, much-criticised over a contentious gesture at the end of Wednesday’s win 2-0 against Albania, clearly felt he had a point to prove as he came out of the traps flying in a game played on an awful surface.

He saw an early shot saved by Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer and then smashed an effort from 25 yards onto the bar and over.

The star of France’s opening two games, Payet began the evening on the bench but came on in the 63rd minute and left the crossbar shuddering with a side-foot volley from Moussa Sissoko’s deep cross. Deschamps added: “Now a new competition is going to start for us next Sunday. We have a long week ahead of us and that will give us time to prepare.”

As group winners, France will face the third-place team in either Group C, D or E in Lyon on June 26, while Switzerland will come up against either Germany, Poland or Northern Ireland a day earlier in Saint-Etienne.

“We’ll wait and see who we play against and then we’ll be ready. We can hold our own with strong opponents and we still have time to improve,” said Petkovic.

Albania looked on the brink of an early exit in their first European Championship appearance after defeats in their opening two outings.

But in Lyon they made history by sinking the Romanians thanks to FC Zurich forward Sadiku, who headed a Ledian Memushaj cross over goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu two minutes before half-time.

It was Albania’s first goal at a major tournament and it was the only goal of the night as Romania were eliminated.

With three points and a negative goal difference, Gianni De Biasi’s side must now wait until the completion of the final round of group matches before finding out if they qualify for the last 16 as one of the four best third-placed sides.

Earlier on Sunday UEFA made Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, Hungary and Belgium the latest targets of disciplinary proceedings over fan troubles.

Portugal have been charged with allowing a pitch invasion after one man passed security at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Saturday night and rushed up to Ronaldo to get a selfie with him.

Security guards waited for the photo to be taken before carrying the fan away at the end of the 0-0 draw with Austria.

Hungary have been charged for allowing crowd disturbances and other offences in their match against Iceland on Saturday, and Belgium too after their fans set off fireworks and threw objects in their game against the Republic of Ireland.

Hardcore supporters of Croatian club Hajduk Split, suspected of throwing flares during a match against the Czech Republic, have threatened on Facebook to disrupt their next game against Spain on Tuesday.

The “Torcida Split 1950” supporters’ group posted a layout of the stadium in Bordeaux where Croatia play against Spain on Tuesday and their supposed plan of action.

UEFA brought charges after at least 10 flares were lobbed from the Croatian corner of the stadium in Saint-Etienne during the 2-2 draw with the Czechs on Friday.


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