After leaving it late to win their games against Romania and Albania, hosts France will look for a more assured performance and finish their group engagements with a 100% record when they take on Switzerland on Sunday night.
Les Bleus needed a late Payet stunner to clinch victory on the opening evening against Romania, and then scored twice in second half stoppage time to beat Albania in front of a 63,670 strong crowd in Marseille. These games have been terribly stressful for head coach Didier Deschamps, who has gone on record to say that he would like his team “to break the deadlock a little earlier”. The French gaffer, who dropped Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba to the bench for the Albania clash, was also unhappy with the organisers and blamed the poor condition of the pitch at Stade Velodrome on the AC/DC concert that was held in the southern city last month.
Whoever comes up trumps at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Sunday will win Group A, and will have a relatively easier Round of 16 tie against one of the best third placed teams (from Groups C/D/E)
France are tipped to beat Switzerland in Sunday’s match up, and history certainly favours Les Bleus, who have not lost to La Nati in over two decades.
Switzerland’s last win over France came back in 1992, when they beat Les Bleus 2-1 in Lausanne. Fabrice Divert gave the French, who had the likes of Deschamps and the maverick Eric Cantona starting, the lead, but the Swiss claimed victory through a goal in either half from the boot of Christophe Bonvin.
Since that game, the Swiss have faced France six more times, with Les Bleus winning three and the others ending in draws. One of those games came at Euro 2004, when Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry struck on either side of Johan Vonlanthen’s first half effort to give France all three points.
The two sides also met at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups. In 2006, the Swiss held the French to a 0-0 draw and topped their group ahead of Les Bleus. However La Nati went out in the next round on penalties to Ukraine, making them the first team to exit a World Cup despite not having conceded a single goal. France, as we know, upset the likes of Spain and Brazil en route to the final, where the now infamous Zidane headbutt saw them fall to Italy in Berlin.
At the 2014 World Cup, France hammered the Swiss 5-2, with five different players scoring for Les Bleus. France went 5-0 ahead in the second half, and the two Swiss goals, from Blerim Dzemaili and Granit Xhaka, came in the final ten minutes to lend a bit of respectability to the scoreline.
How are things looking for Switzerland going into this crunch game?
The Swiss beat Albania 1-0 in their group opener and drew their second game against Romania, with Admir Mehmedi cancelling out Bogdan Stancu’s opener from the penalty spot.
France have booked their spot in the knockout stages, but the other three teams are still in with a chance of making it through.
A loss for the Swiss to France, combined with a decent win for Romania against Albania, could make life very difficult for Vladimir Petkovic’s side. They will then finish third, and would have to be one of the best four teams to qualify, and would also have to contend with tougher opponents in the Round of 16.
If the Swiss draw with France, they will finish second in Group A (regardless of what happens in Romania v Albania), and will meet the runners up in Group C (likely to be either Poland or Ukraine)
France form (last five games)
France 2-0 Albania
France 2-1 Romania
France 3-0 Scotland
France 3-2 Cameroon
France 4-2 Russia
Switzerland form (last five games)
Romania 1-1 Switzerland
Albania 0-1 Switzerland
Switzerland 2-1 Moldova
Switzerland 1-2 Belgium
Switzerland 0-2 Bosnia
Ireland 1-0 Switzerland
Last used starting XI’s
France: Lloris, Sagna, Evra, Rami, Koscielny, Matuidi, Payet, Kante, Giroud, Martial, Coman
Switzerland: Sommer, Djorou, Lichtsteiner, Rodriguez, Schar, Behrami, Dzemaili, Shaqiri, Xhaka, Mehmedi, Seferovic