The opening game of Euro 2016 will decide the tone of the competition. Hosts France take on Romania in the first game of the tournament on Friday, and going by the home advantage, current form and FIFA ranking, Les Blues are the winners of the match.
However, in football, not everything turns out exactly according to prediction. Just like in the ongoing Copa America Centenario, we had expected 15-time champions Uruguay to at least make it until the last four of the event. However, they were knocked out of the tournament in the United States on Thursday by Venezuela.
An upset on the cards with the start of Euro 2016 as well? Who knows?
For the moment, let us look into the two teams and see what exactly could turn out to be the key clashes in the match:
Olivier Giroud (France) vs Vlad Chiriches (Romania)
This striker vs defender battle will the one to watch out for in the match. Arsenal forward Giroud is expected to start the game, and going by France coach Didier Deschamps' preferred 4-3-3 formation, the Romania defence could be set for a tough time throughout the 90 minutes of play.
Chiriches is the most experienced player in the Romania defence in the absence of veteran Razvan Rat, who is in the squad but sidelined for injury. The no-nonsense centre-back has to not only thwart the Les Blues attack but also keep inspiring the team from the front throughout the match.
Giroud, meanwhile, is on a stunning run. The lanky striker has three goals from France's previous two international friendlies and the momentum is behind him.
Our prediction: Giroud could just ease past Chiriches in this battle.
Gabriel Torje (Romania) vs Adil Rami (France)
Torje is a lightning-footed winger and is expected to play an integral part in the match for the away team. Although there is a doubt whether he will be starting the game, it is expected that the mere presence of the 26-year-old at even a single point in the match could give Romania the much-needed attacking momentum.
The France back-four, meanwhile, boasts of big names — Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Adil Rami and Patrice Evra — and may not have that much of a problem in thwarting the Romania attack. However, given that Torje is fielded, his penetration with the ball and an impressive dribbling display could just give a tough time to the defence, and Rami, for one, would be entrusted to man-mark him.
Our prediction: Torje will be impressive and get past Rami, but he will falter against the other Les Blues defenders.
Bogdan Stancu (Romania) vs Laurent Koscielny (France)
Romania doesn't have too many attacking options, but if there is one forward they can rely on, it is Bogdan. The 28-year-old is known for being clinical in front of the goal and can pounce on any loose ball to take a quick shot at goal. It will be interesting to see him test his abilities against one of the best defenders in the Premier League today — Koscielny.
Our prediction: Koscielny could just come out successful, given his experience, in this battle.