Hosts France became the first team at Euro 2016 to qualify for the knockout stage thanks to a late 2-0 defeat of Albania on Wednesday, with last-gasp goals from supersub Antoine Griezmann and new national hero Dimitri Payet.

"It's always difficult against teams that keep it tight. Once we finally got going we let go a bit, albeit slightly late in the day," said France coach Didier Deschamps.

"Albania played with a lot of heart and spirit. They defended well and have the ability to counterattack. We might have scored earlier, we had a lot of chances. While it was goalless, it was a good result for Albania."

Deschamps was full of praise for Payet, who is now tournament joint top scorer with two goals.

"Payet has become more consistent. He's always had ability and a lot of confidence. Now, in one-on-one situations and challenges, he's always up for the fight."

The never-say-die win in Marseille gave hot-and-cold France six points from two games, two points ahead of Switzerland atop Group A.

Earlier, Switzerland battled out a 1-1 draw with Romania. Switzerland have four points, Romania one and neophytes Albania - who are playing in their first ever major tournament - none at all.

France and Switzerland will face off for top spot Sunday in Lille, with the hosts needing just a draw to finish first. Meanwhile, Romania and Albania will clash in Lyon.

Before the match - which was France's first competitive game in Marseille since the 1998 World Cup - coach Didier Deschamps raised eyebrows by making two changes to his team despite their winning start 2-1 against Romania. Paul Pogba and Griezmann were replaced by youngsters Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial.

However, the experiment flopped badly, with France turning in a dreadful first-half display without a single shot on goal - and Deschamps soon had to bring back Pogba and Griezmann.

The second half started with more energy and verve from the hosts, though Albania enjoyed the first clear chance, with Ledian Memushaj silencing the nervous Velodrome by hitting the French post from close range.

France dominated from then on, with Olivier Giroud heading against the post and Pogba going close to breaking the deadlock. This finally happened just one minute from time, when Griezmann calmly headed in a perfect near-post centre from defender Adil Rami.

Luckless Albania poured forward in search of an equalizer and left gaps at the back, which Payet took advantage of in stoppage time to seal the win with a classy second goal, cutting inside from the left and scoring with a curling drive.

Payet has become the leader of Deschamp's team and the new idol of his country, as a result of his handsome late goals against Romania and now Albania.

"These late goals are great, wonderful," gasped a breathless Payet. "Since March, against the Netherlands [in a friendly game], we've shown that we can go out and win the games late on. We had to be patient again tonight."

Fellow scorer Griezmann said: "I wasn't really pleased to not start the match, but that doesn't matter now. What matters now is that we have won again and will be in the knockout matches. That was our aim for tonight, and that is what we have done."

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.