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Euro 2016: Two late goals by France ensured a 2-0 victory over Albania

Published 15/06/2016

France's Antoine Griezmann, center, celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
France's Antoine Griezmann, center, celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
France's Olivier Giroud reacts after a missed chance to score during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
France's Olivier Giroud, right, gestures as Albania's Elseid Hysaj reaches for the ball during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
France's Dimitri Payet, right, fights for the ball with Albania's Burim Kukeli during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Albania's Ermir Lenjani fights for the ball against France's Bacary Sagna during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
General view of at Stade Velodrome before both teams get ready to enter the pitch, during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
French President Francois Hollande arrives in the stands prior to the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Didier Deschamps, coach of the national soccer team of France, sits on the bench before the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
An helicopter overflies the Stade Velodrome stadium ahead of the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
France's Bacary Sagna, left, goes for the ball against Albania's Ermir Lenjani during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
From left, Albania's Ansi Agolli, France's Dimitri Payet and Albania's Burim Kukeli go for the ball during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
France's Anthony Martial runs with the ball during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
France's N'Golo Kante, right, and Albania's Ledian Memushaj go for the ball during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
France's Laurent Koscielny, left, falls in front of Albania's Armando Sadiku during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
France's N'Golo Kante kicks the ball during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
France's Olivier Giroud picks up his shoe during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
France's Anthony Martial, right, challenges Albania's Elseid Hysaj during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
France's Olivier Giroud, center, argues with Referee William Collum, right, during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
France's N'Golo Kante kicks the ball during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
France's Olivier Giroud picks up his shoe during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
France's Olivier Giroud, center, argues with Referee William Collum, right, during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
France's Anthony Martial, right, challenges Albania's Elseid Hysaj during the Euro 2016 Group A soccer match between France and Albania at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

France needed last-gasp goals from Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet to snatch a 2-0 win over Group A minnows Albania and secure their passage to the Round of 16.

The hosts looked anything but Euro 2016 favourites as they struggled past a side ranked 42nd in the world, and were very nearly on the end of a major upset with Albania rattling a post.

But just as Albania looked set to register their first ever point at an international tournament, substitute Griezmann came to France's rescue with less than a minute to go.

Then in stoppage time West Ham star Payet, back on his old Marseille stomping ground, curled in his second goal in two matches to secure their place in the knockout stages.

All France had to show for a worryingly flat first-half performance were two Payet free-kicks, both headed over by Olivier Giroud, and a blocked shot from Anthony Martial after he was put through by Payet.

Albania predictably began by defending deep but, perhaps sensing some French nerves, they began to venture forward and Ermir Lenjani tried his luck from 30 yards but his effort flew high and wide.

Moments later full-back Elseid Hisaj went on the overlap and pinged in a low cross which Hugo Lloris had to gather as Armando Sadiku threatened to get a toe onto the ball.

Ten minutes before half-time Albania won a corner and Ledian Memushaj's low delivery caught the French by surprise, with Lenjani only denied a shock goal by a deflection.

Martial was sacrificed at the break with Paul Pogba, a surprise exclusion from the starting line-up, summoned from the bench.

France improved immediately - not that they could get much worse - and just 30 seconds into the second half Giroud swung in a cross and youngster Kingsley Coman glanced a header just past the post.

Yet they still had to survive another major scare in the 52nd minute when Memushaj beat Hugo Lloris but saw his effort come back off the foot of the post.

The ball rebounded to the floored striker but he knew little about it as it bounced off his head and narrowly wide.

Pogba had a chance to break the deadlock shortly after when he slid on to meet an inviting cross from Payet only to blaze over.

Giroud then headed wide before the Arsenal striker went closer still when he nodded Patrice Evra's cross against the Albanian woodwork.

A late onslaught saw Laurent Koscielny fluff a close-range header, N'Golo Kante denied by a deflection and Andre Pierre Gignac nod wide.

But with 90 minutes almost up Albania's rearguard finally slipped up, leaving Griezmann unmarked to head home Adil Rami's cross.

Then Payet repeated his trick against Romania on the opening night when he jinked into the box and curled home to secure a victory which was far more hard-earned than the scoreline would suggest.

Online Editors

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