France host Romania on Friday in the opening match of Euro 2016. The host nation will be looking to claim all three points in this Group A encounter, while Romania are seeking an upset.
What’s at stake here?
It is absolutely vital for France to get off to a winning start. With plenty of pressure on the hosts going into the opening Group A fixture, the return to competitive football after an almost two-year absence could be a shock. If Didier Deschamps’ men are on the receiving end of a surprise result in their first match at Stade de France, Les Bleus’ chances of reaching the latter stages could be jeopardised, with Albania and Switzerland to follow. The French need to make the most of home advantage and boost their cautiously optimistic supporters with a strong early performance — similar to how the two-time European champions got their 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign underway in Brazil.
Apart from hearing about Steliano Filip’s minor injury, the Romania fans were left without any major news from their national team in the week before the opening game at Euro 2016. Manager Anghel Iordanescu chose a rather militaristic approach to the media and supporters, hoping to get maximum concentration from his players. He even sent the goalkeeping coach and the fan club president to attend Tuesday’s press conference, while the team’s psychologist worked to get the players mentally ready for the test against France. Almost all the players are calling the game against France “the biggest of their lives.” The interest in Romania is so big that it could lead to a new TV ratings record. A positive result could lead people out of their houses to celebrate in downtown Bucharest, just like in the old days of Gheorghe Hagi’s generation in the 1990s.
Olivier Giroud against Romania’s Vlad Chiriches has the potential to be the key battle on opening evening. The Arsenal man is in good form at the moment, having scored three goals in two recent warm-up fixtures and seven times in his past seven friendly outings with France. Deschamps needs Giroud to maintain his current hot streak and, more importantly, remain high on confidence, as the Gunners star will be the focal point of his attack for the majority of the tournament. Making a scoring start against the Romanians could set Giroud up for a run at the Golden Boot this summer, but if he is to find the back of the net, he will need to find a way past Chiriches.
At 35, Razvan Rat has left his best days behind him. Despite a shoulder injury that restricted him to just 15 minutes of football at club level since the beginning of the year, Rat will keep his starting position, thanks to his experience and character. No other player was capable of challenging for the left-back berth, though Steliano Filip put in a courageous display in the 0-0 draw with Spain in March. Life won’t be easy for Romania’s most-capped current international. He will add one more to his 111 appearances, but Antoine Griezmann is likely to trouble him. Rat has had obvious defensive problems for quite a while, and his participation in the other half of the pitch has suffered too. An in-form Griezmann could make Rat suffer far more than other more modest opponents already have. His lack of playing time with Rayo Vallecano won’t help, despite his constant claims that he is determined to be fully fit.
Although Giroud is the player Deschamps hopes will excel in front of goal on Friday in Paris, Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann is the man who could ultimately play the starring role. Because of extended club duty, the 25-year-old was able to play only 45 minutes of the 3-0 friendly win over Scotland last weekend in Metz. However, he is likely to start against Romania. Les Bleus need Griezmann to pick up where he left off in March, after noncompetitive victories over the Netherlands and Russia. If he does, Romania could suffer at the hands of the hosts’ No. 7.
Iordanescu will surely focus his strategy on the player best suited for his tactical approach: Florin Andone. Andone scored 21 goals for Cordoba the past season and is likely to start as a lone striker at the Stade de France. This is exactly the kind game in which Andone loves to play, and it will serve as an important test of his big-game potential. The 23-year-old, who had a great season in Spain’s second tier, is hungry, skilled and ready to fight whoever’s in front of him for goals. He is capable of dragging defenders out of position without much effort. Good with and without the ball, Andone is quick and always ready to challenge his marker, and he gets most of his decisions in front of goal right.
As at this post France has 1.33 odd to win the match on NaijaBet while Romania has 10.61 odd to win the match also, while the odd to draw the match is 4.62