The first match of the Euros is upon us and it is certainly an intriguing affair, as host nation France kick off proceedings against Romania. Jake Jackman returns with a preview and his selections to follow tonight.
Friday 10th June 2016 – 8:00pm BST
EURO 2016 – GROUP A
FRANCE v ROMANIA
On paper, the hosts are clear favourites, and that is reflected in the odds. However, Romania are a solid side, and went through qualification unbeaten. Also the pressure of the European Championships affects every player differently and the opening matches normally exhibit signs of caution, rather than swashbuckling attacking play. I believe France will overcome Romania, but it won’t be a comfortable victory.
France have won all but one of their last ten matches, and that defeat came just days after the Paris bombings against England. They have scored 24 goals over this period, showing their impressive attacking qualities, and they will be one of the more high-scoring teams of the tournament, despite the absences of Karim Benzema and Alexandre Lacazette. Olivier Giroud has looked good in recent matches, scoring frequently, despite being booed by some sections of the French support. He will be flanked by Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet, which should allow the Arsenal frontman to find space and he will receive service. I fancy Olivier Giroud to score anytime and continue to prove the doubters wrong.
The two sides have met on 15 occasions, and Romania have won three times, France have won seven times and they have finished level on five occasions. They have drawn four of their last five meetings, which suggest France won’t have it as easy as many are expecting. They met at Euro 2008, which ended in a 0-0 draw. I expect there to be few goals again on Friday, which is why under 2.5 goals looks like a smart bet.
Romania do have some exciting young players, and I expect them to get through this group. It is bad for them that they start against France as it could damage their confidence. If they perform well and run France close, they will be able to take that into the matches against Albania and Switzerland. In Florin Andone and Nicolae Stanciu, they have two players who will go on to play in a big European league and they are two to watch in Group A.
I think the scoreline will be 2-0 France. They have a squad to deal with the pressure and their dynamic attacking front line, backed up by Paul Pogba in the midfield will be too much for Romania. I do feel the Romanians will put up a good performance and I expect them to do better than expected at this tournament. Their problem may be scoring goals, especially against the stronger teams.