France leave it late but progress to last 16

ON TARGET: Dimitri Payet gives France a 2-0 lead in the Euro 2016 match against Albania at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.
ON TARGET: Dimitri Payet gives France a 2-0 lead in the Euro 2016 match against Albania at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille. OLIVER WEIKEN

FOOTBALL: France coach Didier Deschamps has praised his team’s never-say-die attitude after the hosts left it late to secure a 2-0 win over Albania to become the first team to make it through to the last 16 at Euro 2016.

The hosts were expected to easily account for Albania, playing in its first European Championships, but only won thanks to a headed goal in the 90th minute from Antoine Griezmann and a second from Dimitri Payet in injury time.

“The players have a lot of heart,” Deschamps said.

“We did not start flat out and we didn’t have too much success, but we had some luck.

“We have six points and we have already qualified (for the knockout stages).”

France plays Switzerland in the final group game on Sunday, needing just a point to top the group and secure a game possibly against a weaker team in the knockout stage.

“The final game remains critical, but it’s a very good thing,” Deschamps added.

“We had to take the advantage and make ourselves safe.”

The Swiss are now favourites to join their neighbours in the last 16 after a 1-1 draw with Romania.

Bogdan Stancu’s penalty gave Romania the advantage in Paris before Switzerland missed a hatful of chances to draw level.

Admir Mehmedi did eventually get the goals the Swiss deserved with 30 minutes remaining.

They need a point against France to guarantee a spot in the next round.

Russia needs other results to go its way if it is to stay in the tournament following a 2-1 defeat to Slovakia.

The Russians are bottom of Group B with one point and will need to beat Wales in their last game to have a chance of moving through.

In tonight’s games the Czech Republic takes on Croatia and Spain plays Turkey in Group D.

In Group E, Italy plays Sweden, with the Italians needing a win to move through to the next stage.

Topics:  2016 euro

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