THE hosts take on Albania in their second Euro 2016 fixture and go into the game heavy favourites. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) takes a look at the odds.
France v Albania | Wednesday 17:00 | Sky Sports 1
They got there in the end eh? Yes, the hosts of Euro 2016 were rescued in their opening game by a man who plays for a club who were in England’s second tier just three years ago.
France were matched at various points by Romania in Friday’s opening game but they deserved to take the three points. Chances were spurned, but Dimitri Payet’s late goal felt like justice. Did they look like tournament favourites? Well, that’s another matter.
Assignment number two for the French is a match against Albania – a side that have caused them unexpected stress over the last 18 months.
Due to the centralized friendlies scheme that UEFA introduced for this tournament France had to play all the participants in qualifying Group I.
While they fared well against Portugal, Denmark et al, it was Albania that caused Didier Deschamps side the most problems with a draw in Paris followed by a poor 1-0 loss in Elbasan.
That defeat proved to be the trigger (sort of literally) for Deschamps to fire a number of players from his squad and if France win the trophy on July 10th then their defeat in Albania may prove to be a pivotal moment.
As for Albania, it was hard not to feel sorry for them on Saturday. They played the majority of the game against Switzerland with just 10 men but had every right to earn a point from the match.
Poor finishing proved to be the cause of their defeat and the question now seems to be whether they are able to pick themselves back up from that loss or sink towards elimination.
The sending off of captain Lorik Cana cost them on Saturday and may indeed hurt them here against France. Cana’s absence stilts my confidence in Albania even though the price looks too big. He was a huge part of their qualification and played in all eight of their qualifying matches.
One of the most eye-catching trends in international football over the last few years has been Albania’s defensive resistance. This side have lost by more than one goal just twice in their last 33 matches and in qualifying they kept clean sheets in Portugal and in Denmark.
I do think this might be a bridge too far for Albania and without their captain the damage may prove more costly than their regular narrow margin defeats.
It may not be the most adventurous of strategies but I’m keen to side with a French win by the odd goal or more. By backing them to win by exactly one goal and exactly two the overall return comes out at 10/11. I think that’s a value bet.
France will be eager to wrong the rights of their two friendly matches and keep the feel-good factor alive for the hosts so I’m expecting a win here. A thrashing though is out of the question against this resilient side.