Group A is headlined by a world class French team, along with first timers Albania, Romania and Switzerland. Being the hosts of this tournament, France qualified automatically, while the other three teams had to go through the qualifying phase to clinch a berth.
Albania allowed only five goals during the qualifying phase, which is the main reason why the team is here for the first time. They are very defensively sound with veterans Cani, Agolli and Lila at the back. This experience could be a huge plus for the team at this tournament because Albania has a handful of young players that the nation will lean on in future tournaments. Albania only scored 10 goals in qualifying and it has been their weakness for a long time now, so look for coach, Di Biasi to give a few different guys a chance to play up top, if this problem continues. Gashi and Xhaka are the two main guys in the midfield/attacking midfield area who will try and organize attacks on the opposing team. If Albania does go up in any of their matches, look for them to play defensive football, something the team does very well because of their experience at the back.
France comes in with one of the most talented teams in this group tournament, at least attacking wise. Antoine Griezmann has had a superb season for Atletico Madrid and I expect him to continue his tear in this tournament. In the midfield France has Kante who covers a ton of ground and gets to pretty much every ball. Payet is a player who distributes the ball very well and his set pieces are very dangerous. Pogba does a bit of everything-scoring, distributing, tracking back and everything else in between. The backline for France worries me. Varane has been in and out of form during the season, same with Arsenal centreback, Koscielny. Mangala has had a poor season at Manchester City and many of the other reserves for France are in their early-mid 30s (Jallet, Evra, Mathieu). I could potentially see trouble for France if a defender picks up an injury.
Romania conceded only two goals during the qualifying phase, but they also played in the weakest group, or so most would say. The trouble facing Romania could be the fact that they do not have enough players playing in the top leagues of Europe, which would mean a weaker roster. A lot will depend on 25 year old Stuttgart midfielder, Alexandru Maxim who will be looked upon as the main player for this Romanian side. Rat and Chiriches will need to play the best football of their careers, if Romania wants to be successful and get past the group stage. With three teams possibly advancing, nothing is impossible, but I think that it will be very hard for this team.
Switzerland had no problems scoring in qualifying, but then again they were in a group with Lithuania, Estonia and San Marino, nations that are not exactly powerhouses. Not getting out of the group stage in these Euros would be a crushing blow for a Swiss team that possesses some very skilled footballers from Shaqiri, Xhaka and Rodriguez just to name a few. Switzerland had 14 different players score for them during qualifying, which shows that they are a balanced team. I expect the Swiss to put pressure on both Albania and Romania to get good results because the last thing Switzerland wants is to face a must-win situation vs France in their final match. The Swiss back four has been shaky at times, so look for teams to try and expose them.
-France should get out of the group with three wins, but let’s remember, Albania played the French very tough in their two friendlies, where the first match resulted in a tie, while Albania won the second match at home. This is the big stage though and I do not think any team in this group can defeat France.
-Albania could surprise some people. They have a solid backline with great discipline; all they need to do is score goals, which is something the team struggles to do.
-Switzerland should also get out of this group, while I think Romania will struggle to get results.
Advancing: France, Switzerland and Albania
Ogi is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program. He is the founder of Blago Blogger Sports.