The hosts were expected to breeze through group play, however, Didier Deschamps’ side needed almost the full 90 minutes to find a winner.
France defeated Albania 2-0 on Wednesday, after an admirable effort from the latter was cancelled out by Antoine Griezmann’s 89th minute header.
The Atletico Madrid attacker found himself on the end of a perfect Adil Rami cross with one minute remaining in regulation, and Albania’s defense suffered an ill-timed lapse. Griezmann’s goal was the first of two shots on target for both sides, despite France posting 22 attempts on the afternoon.
West Ham winger Dimitri Payet scored his second goal of Euro 2016 to ensure France’s route to the Round of 16 in second-half stoppage time.
Without stars Paul Pogba and Griezmann in the starting XI, France struggled to find chances in the first half, despite Les Bleus holding the greater share of possession. Olivier Giroud’s close-range header in the fourth minute was the closest opportunity either side had through 45 minutes, but the Arsenal striker couldn’t keep his effort on frame.
Pogba found his way onto the pitch at the start of the second half, and while France did create more chances, Les Bleus simply couldn’t buy a goal. It took Griezmann’s introduction in the 68th minute to lift France.
It was Albania who found their best chance of the second stanza when Ledian Memushaj’s header just missed to the right of Hugo Lloris’ net. The opportunity came off of a set piece in the 52nd minute.
Albania will close out group play on June 19 against Romania, while France takes on Switzerland to decide which team will finish atop Group A.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Antoine Griezmann‘s introduction and finish saved France from a draw, but Les Bleus will have to fine tune their form ahead of the next round.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
It seemed like Albania was destined for a historic result against the hosts, but Griezmann’s free header served as a reminder just how much talent the French have within their team.
MATCH TO FORGET
Albania’s backline defended everything properly until the final minute of regular time. While the result will surely be heartbreaking, the 42nd-ranked team in the world should be proud of the effort they put forth.