Romania v. Albania
The first of our final group stage games here, as Group A will wrap things up with the only two games of the day, both at 3 PM. Are these two eastern European countries under-rated, or are France and Switzerland over-rated? We won’t find out until the knock-out round, I guess, but although these teams come into this with 1 point combined, they’ve both been impressive. They both took mighty France to the brink, with a tie game until the very late stages in each. And they both played right with Switzerland, as well.
There was a lot of talk coming into this tournament about how some third-place teams being able to advance would effect the tournament. As far as I can tell (which might not be totally right), 4 points basically guarantees an advance to the knock-out stage. Even with just three points and 0 goal differential, you’re probably getting through. So, for this game? A Romania win should advance them through. Albania is probably done no matter what, with 0 points and a -3 differential, but it tells you something that they’re not eliminated already. They both know they’re going home with a draw, which tends to make for some exciting games.
Prediction: Romania 1, Albania 1
France v. Switzerland
It was an interesting line-up switch by French coach Didier Deschamps to put two of his top-rated players, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, on the bench to start their game vs. Albania. Of course, when your midfield is as loaded as theirs, there’s always going to be some top players left out of the starting line-up. But it seems like he was trying to send a message to Pogba about how he wants him to play, and Griezmann was most likely left out because he’s pretty fatigued from a long season at Atletico Madrid that just ended in the Champions League final on Memorial Day weekend.
In any event, it will be interesting to see if they’re back in against Switzerland. Even though Griezmann came on and scored the game-winner vs. Albania, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the bench to start again, because if you want to get him rest this is a good time, as they’ve already clinched a spot in the knock-out stage. Whether or not Pogba is back in there is probably more interesting, because if he’s not that might mean Deschamps has decided to go away from him for the remainder of the tournament.
Switzerland has all but locked up a spot in the knock-out stage, as well, with four points through their first two matches. But both of these teams have failed to impress thus far and could grab some momentum with a strong performance here.
Prediction: France 2, Switzerland 0