With the first stage of the European Championships coming to an end, we take a look at who has performed well and who has struggled through the group matches and what can be expected for the rest of the tournament. We start with group A and the host nation, France.
The hosts have been less than impressive so far, particularly going forward, but with a weak group they have managed to qualify as the group winners and will be looking forward to their round of 16 clash in Lyon on Sunday. The dropping of Paul Pogba and Antione Griezmann for the second group match against Albania revealed coach Didier Deschamps' willingness to drop even the biggest names if he felt they weren't performing at their best. Pogba in particular has disappointed so far, with only the first half against Switzerland showing him anywhere near his flamboyant best. Going forward the French will be reliant on West Ham star Dimitri Payet, who has scored two of their three goals so far. The defence has held out well, conceding only one goal. The penalty in the first game against Romania could have been a negative moment for their tournament but they showed their mental strength to overcome the pressure and the one goal deficit to win 2-1. They repeated that feat, leaving it late to defeat Albania 2-0 in the second game and a dour 0-0 draw against the Swiss couldn't dampen the feeling of optimism for the next round as they won the group without playing their best football. If they can get their attacking stars firing then they will likely go a long way.
Securing their place in the next round was the initial aim for the Swiss, still moving into a new phase after the retirement of Otmar Hitzfeld after the last world cup. Whilst the style is still very much suited to not conceding, they are clearly trying to bring more attacking strength to bear on their opponents with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Admir Mehmedi impressing in their domestic leagues. The Swiss have clearly not solved those problems though, scoring only two goals in their three games, although the defence have again been impressive and have only conceded a single goal. Fabian Schär has been a solid addition to the squad and an upgrade on stalwart Phillipe Senderos. With three talented goalkeepers to choose from and one of the best right-backs in the tournament the Swiss will be difficult to score against and could end up going out of a major tournament on penalties if Poland (likely runners up of group C) can't fix their scoring problem.
The Albanians pulled off quite a shock in qualifying for the tournament in the first place and have somehow managed to squeeze into third place after beating Romania in the final group match. Losing their first two games and conceding four goals in the process means they will probably miss out on one of the best third place team places, but they will be proud to have overcome two lacklustre defeats to leave the tournament with a third place finish and a first win in a major tournament. The Albanians can be proud of their first ever showing in any form of UEFA or FIFA tournament and will be hoping they can use the experience as inspiration for the qualifying campaign for the world cup if they do end up being knocked out at this stage.
What started as a really positive tournament has ended in bitterness for the Romanians. After taking the lead against France in the opening match of the tournament and earning a draw against the Swiss they will have gone into their clash with Albania hoping to sneak into the round of 16 with a win. It wasn't to be, as they lost 1-0 to the tournament underdog and crashed out in last place. With very few star names and success based on a team working together it was never expected that they would go a long way in France, but they will be disappointed not to have at least been in with a chance of qualifying for the next round as one of the third placed teams.
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