16 June 2016
Juventus’ 12 international representatives maintained their unbeaten record in this summer’s European Championships last night as Stephan Lichtsteiner’s Switzerland drew 1-1 with Romania and Patrice Evra and Paul Pogba’s France became the first team to reach the last 16 after a last-gasp two-nil victory over Albania in Marseille.
The Swiss – captained by Juve wing-back Lichtsteiner – were made to work hard for a point that makes them firm favourites to follow the French out of Group A by a dogged Romanian outfit at Paris’ Parc des Princes.
Falling behind to Bodgan Stancu’s early penalty after a foul in the box by the skipper, the Euro 2008 co-hosts spurned a series of first-half chances before fighting back to share the spoils courtesy of Admir Mehmedi’s excellent half-volley 12 minutes after the interval.
It was the turn of the home nation just over an hour later, who needed the full 90 minutes to break down a committed and organised Albania side at the Stade Vélodrome. Patrice Evra featured from the off once again while compatriot Paul Pogba rose from the bench at half-time to swing the tie in France’s favour.
Frustrated in the first period by a fine defensive performance from Gianni De Biasi’s men, Les Bleus improved significantly after the break to strike twice in stoppage time and earn their second win in a row.
After a tough 45 minutes, Paul Pogba’s introduction in place of Anthony Martial saw Didier Deschamps’ side increase their tempo, up the ante and press home their territorial advantage as their unfortunate visitors tired in the closing stages.
Both sides struck the post in a breathless final quarter but it was the home team’s superior finishing that carried them over the line, Antoine Greizmann glancing home from Adil Rami’s centre on 91 minutes before Dimitri Payet scored his second spectacular goal of the tournament moments later after latching on to Pogba’s superb cross-field pass.
France will top Group A should they avoid defeat against Switzerland in Lille on Sunday who will need a point themselves to prevent Romania – who face Albania in Lyon on the same day - from pipping them to second place.
There will be just one Juventus player in action on Thursday; Sami Khedira’s Germany take on Poland at the Stade de France, with both teams looking to build on respective Matchday 1 victories.