Russia v. Slovakia
Neither team looked great in their opening matches as Russia salvaged a late draw vs. England and Slovakia went down to Wales. I expect the Russians to play it fairly safe here. They have a draw vs. the best team in the group in the bag and even two more draws would give them a very good chance of advancing. Slovakia, on the other hand, will need to bring it to them.
Prediction: Russia 1, Slovakia 1
Romania v. Switzerland
Romania was better than expected in the opening game vs. France and it was courageous of them to come out and look to press and try to score from the outset. Switzerland, on the other hand, seemed to continue their disappointing play from qualifying with a lackluster performance against Albania. Despite an Albanian red card in the 36th minute, the Swiss still had to sweat out a 1-0 win.
This one is hard to predict, but maybe the Swiss will realize they need to raise their effort and won’t get caught off guard if Romania decides to come at them.
Prediction: Switzerland 2, Romania 1
France v. Albania
France’s opening win was all about Dimitri Payet’s dominating performance, not just with the great goal late but throughout the game. A late-bloomer playing his first major tournament for France at the age of 29, Payet outshone the bigger names in the French side. Not that it came as a shock after his really strong season for West Ham. Payet hails from Reunion, a French owned island near Madagascar. Crazy to go from there to the highest reaches of French (and world) soccer.
The added attention on Payet may open things up for Antoine Greizmann. Greizmann doesn’t have elite speed or athleticism and is fairly small. It takes seeing him play a bunch of times to appreciate how good he is. He’s somewhat similar to Germany’s Thomas Muller in that he just has a great sense of where to be on the field, to anticipate where openings in the defense will come, and run into those spaces to create goals.
It was a really impressive performance from Albania against Switzerland but France is far superior and I think will have put aside some of the first-game pressure they were feeling to put up the tournaments first rout here.
Prediction: France 4, Albania 0