Two late blows from Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann helped France escape from this Group A tie unscathed, as Albania failed to take anything from a positive performance against the hosts.
France 2-0 Albania
France, tipped as the favourites to taste glory by bookmakers before the tournament kicked off, were facing an Albania side who were the lowest ranked side going into the competition. To tip the scales further in their favour, the hosts were up against a side missing their captain Lorik Cana through suspension after his red card against Switzerland.
Les Bleus took Albania by the scruff of the neck early, with a dominant system designed to expose the visitors on the flanks. A whipped free kick was met by Olivier Giroud, who sent a header off radar.
|Image: AFP / Getty Images|
For all their domination, France were failing to convert possession into chances, and again Albania went within inches of taking the lead. A threatening low cross looked to be poked in by Sadiku, but Lloris gathered to save his nation's blushes.
Didier Deschamps' strategy to call up Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman in place of Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba seemed to be failing. The youngsters offered very little support to Giroud in the first half and the hosts looked extremely disjointed in attack. After half an hour, the pair had completed just seven passes combined.
The Marseille crowd roared in approval as Coman displayed his outstanding technical talents, with a fine piece of skill on the touchline.
As half-time approached, Paul Pogba began to warm up, Deschamps pondered his next move. On the pitch, a high boot from Patrice Evra gifted Albania a free kick in an opportunistic position. Ledian Memushaj struck it well, but it floated just over the roof of the net.
The second half, Pogba entered the fray. Dimitri Payet shifted out wide as the Juventus man slotted in just behind Giroud. Blaise Matuidi fashioned a chance for Coman with a flick on Giroud's cross, the 20-year-old failing to connect with the ball.
Memushaj struck the woodwork as Albania struck the hosts with a counter punch, and the game breathed to life after a highly tedious first half.
Energised by the introduction of Pogba, France began to strut their stuff, with the half-time substitute rifling a volley over after Dimitri Payet had drifted in a sumptuous cross with the outside of his boot.
Patrice Evra probed down the left and delivered a cross for Giroud to steer in, but the Arsenal man saw his effort come off the base of the post and out to safety. The home fans chanted for Andre-Pierre Gignac to be thrown on, instead Griezmann replaced Coman. The Marseille crowd only needed to wait another 9 minutes before their former club hero took to the field.
|Gignac spent 5 years at Marseille and scored 59 goals in his time there.|
As resilient as they had been, the goal was a cruel reminder for Albania of the gulf in class between the two sides.
The minnows stormed forward in search of a goal that would break French hearts, but they were caught on the break by a raking, diagonal ball from Pogba that fell at the feet of Gignac with space to run into. The striker feinted past a defender to tee up Dimitri Payet who had ghosted forward, and the hero from 5 days ago made no mistake as he drilled into the bottom corner to put the game to bed.
Albania should not lose heart from this crushing loss, as they still have a chance of advancing to the Round of 16 if they can topple Romania on Sunday, as the four best 3rd placed sides also remain in the competition.
France have stolen the show late on once again, but there are worrying signs for Didier Deschamps' men from otherwise uninspiring performances against two of the lowest ranked teams participating at Euro 2016.
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