Switzerland reach last 16, France finish top of group

Switzerland qualified for the knock-out stages of the European Championship for the first time and France went through as Group A winners after a lively 0-0 draw between the sides on Sunday.

France had the better of the chances, with Paul Pogba going close twice in the first half while substitute Dimitri Payet almost continued his fine tournament but struck the bar with a first-time effort in the second period.

The French top the group on seven points with the Swiss going through to the last 16 automatically after finishing second on five points.

"It is a significant achievement. This was our minimum objective. We played well and were able to hold firm," coach Vladimir Petkovic told a news conference after Switzerland managed what they failed to do at Euro 96, Euro 2004 and 2008.

"But we can and must do better in the final third of the pitch."

Albania scored their first ever major tournament goal to beat Romania 1-0 in the other final group game to end up third and face a wait to see if they are among the four best third-placed teams who progress.

France next meet a third-placed side from Groups C D or E in Lyon on Sunday in the first knock-out round while Switzerland will face the runners-up from Group C on Saturday in St. Etienne.

"In terms of our plans it was very, very important to win the group," France coach Didier Deschamps said.

"But clearly there are things that need to be improved upon. Every match is difficult. Paul (Pogba) really was the life force of the match during the first half, he was the heart and soul."

With France already through to the last 16 before kick-off, Deschamps made five changes despite top spot not then being assured.

N’Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud were left out as they were on yellow cards while Payet was the big omission from the starting lineup, initially rested after a stunning tournament so far.

Petkovic, whose side have never beaten France in a competitive match and lost 5-2 to Deschamps’ men in the group stage at the last World Cup, handed 19-year-old Basel striker Breel Embolo a start upfront with the misfiring Haris Seferovic dropped to the bench.

Home fans waved thousands of French flags during rousing renditions of the Marseillaise but the Swiss supporters made themselves seen and heard too.

The roof was kept open with the threat of rain having abated but the pitch was still poor, with Pogba angry at slipping on several occasions. Pogba almost scored early on when the previously very reliable Yann Sommer spilled his stinging shot onto the top of the bar. Sommer then reverted to type to expertly divert a Pogba piledriver.

The start of the game was more enjoyable and open than France's previous encounters against defensively-minded Romania and Albania. Pogba was again in the action with another powerful effort rattling the top of the bar, all of this coming in the first 17 minutes.

The game slowed down from then on although three Switzerland players had their shirts ripped and the ball even popped, such was the ferociousness of some of the tackling.

France keeper Hugo Lloris, who tied the record for most France caps as captain with coach Deschamps in his 54th appearance with the armband, had little to do as Switzerland stretched the game but failed to create clear-cut chances.

Embolo was lively but without any end product and Seferovic was introduced in the second half.

Antoine Griezmann had an early opportunity in the second half for France but Sommer palmed his effort over the bar.

Payet then came on to a huge reception from the France fans inside Lille’s Stade Pierre Mauroy and almost immediately added to his two goals already this tournament when hammering the bar.

He fired wide with another fierce effort soon after.

Last update: Mon, 20/06/2016 - 00:03
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