The first match of the Euros is in the books and the second game of Group A takes place tomorrow afternoon as Euro first-timers Albania face Switzerland. Jake Jackman returns with a preview and his selections to follow tonight.
Saturday 11th June 2016 – 14:00 BST
EURO 2016 – GROUP A
ALBANIA v SWITZERLAND
The early kick off on Saturday may not be the most appealing match of the opening round, but it sees Albania make their European Championship debut. Not much is expected from them and that could be a positive for them as they are a more than useful side, which could qualify from this group if they play to their maximum. They are coming up against a Switzerland team, which has some great players in their ranks. However, they aren’t as good as many are making them out to be and they won’t qualify from this group easily.
I think this fixture will be a tight affair, as neither have great offenses. Switzerland may have scored 24 goals in qualifying, but they failed to score in either game against England, and the majority of their goals came against San Marino and Lithuania. Albania only conceded five throughout qualification and managed to concede only one to a Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal. They have been underestimated by many ahead of the tournament, who believe they will be blown away by France and Switzerland. They have a very good coach in Gianni De Biasi and they will be hard to break down. This is why under 2.5 goals is a very good bet in this match.
The difference between the two sides is that Switzerland have match-winners up front in the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and the man everyone is expecting to break out in the tournament, Breel Embolo. That could prove to be the main difference in this fixture, as it could do for Switzerland throughout the tournament. They have an established defence, and Shaqiri thrives under the expectation in attack. He is much more consistent at international level, as the Swiss side is set up to get the best out of him. The in-form attacking player for Albania is Armando Sadiku and he could force himself into the starting eleven for this one.
This match is also notable as the Xhaka brothers are set to face each other. Granit is well known after signing for Arsenal last month, but Taulant Xhaka is also a good footballer, who plies his trade for FC Basel in Switzerland. It will be interesting to see them come face to face on the pitch. A look into the bookings market may be worth your while if you think things could get heated between the pair.
I expect the match to have few goals and it could take a moment of magic to win this one. Step forward Xherdan Shaqiri, who I expect to do something special to win the match for Switzerland. Although I think Albania will put up a good fight, and surprise a few people with their performance. Switzerland need to win this match, especially after the impressive showing from Romania in their opening match against France.