France into next round as Switzerland takes a step nearer
PARIS >> The French progressed to the second round of the European Championship they're hosting with a 2-0 win over Albania, keeping their supporters and coach Didier Deschamps on edge right to the end on Wednesday.
For the second successive match, France left it late to secure victory with Antoine Griezmann giving the home team the lead in the 90th minute with a header. Dimitri Payet put the result beyond doubt with his second impressive goal of the tournament deep in stoppage time.
"I would prefer us to break the deadlock a little earlier," Deschamps said.
France meets Switzerland in its last Group A match in Lille on Sunday, when the Swiss are hoping to qualify for the knockout stages of the European Championship for the first time.
Switzerland closed in on the round of 16 on Wednesday, rallying for a 1-1 draw with Romania at the Parc des Princes in Paris. Bogdan Stancu put Romania ahead in the 18th minute with a penalty — his second at Euro 2016 — after Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner pulled an opponent's shirt.
Admir Mehmedi equalized in the 57th with a powerful left-foot shot to give the Swiss have four points after two games.
All four teams in Group A can still qualify as the new 24-team format means the third-place teams in the six groups have a chance to reach the round of 16. Romania, which has one point, meets Albania, which has zero, also on Sunday in Lyon.
In the only Group B match played Wednesday, Slovakia beat Russia 2-1 in Lille. The victory owed much to midfielders Marek Hamsik and Vladimir Weiss, who combined for both of their teams goals.
Slovakia withstood sustained Russian pressure in the second half. But it was only in the 80th minute that Russia got one back with Denis Glushakov's headed goal.
Both teams still have a chance to progress — Slovakia, which has three points from its two games, faces England in its final group game on Monday, while Russia, with one point, takes on Wales in Toulouse.
England and Wales meet on Thursday in Lens, which is only 30 kilometers (around 20 miles) from Lille. The proximity of the two cities and the arrival of thousands of English fans in the city where Russia played its second game stoked concerns of a repeat of the violence that marred last Saturday's match between England and Russia in Marseille.
Russian soccer authorities have been put on notice from UEFA that their team could be kicked out of Euro 2016 if there's any repeat of the violence that marred the match in Marseille. At one point last Saturday, Russian fans stormed an English section in the stadium in Marseille.
French authorities say police made 36 arrests Wednesday in Lille in a largely peaceful day interspersed with bursts of crowd trouble and a few fights. Authorities also say 16 people have been hospitalized but gave no details about their injuries or ailments.
On Thursday, in addition to England vs. Wales, Ukraine takes on Northern Ireland in Lyon and Germany meets Poland at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis.
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