Last year in June, Albania defeated world heavyweights France, and they will be keen to come up with a repeat performance to stun the home crowd at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Wednesday. While France will eye revenge, they will also try to confirm their round of 16 spot with a win.
France go into this match as favourites, but they need to reaffirm their serious contenders tag with a solid win, and Albania looks like an ideal prey. Didier Deschamps' men might have defeated Romania in their first game, but they were nowhere near their best, missing easy chances.
However, France may be excused, to some extent, as they were not involved in serious action like other teams, who had played some tough matches to qualify for Euro 2016, while the French, as host, received an automatic berth. But, after facing Romania, such excuses will not be acceptable.
Despite their lack of football at the big stage of late, they are one of the favourites with some wonderful players like Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, Olivier Giroud among others. Though they might have been brilliant for their respective clubs, they need to gel together, which was not witnessed against Romania in their first game. Pogba and Griezmann were disappointing.
With plenty of depth in their squad, Didier Deschamps might make some changes in his team. Irrespective of the player he fields in the starting XI, they have to stand up and be counted against Albania. France need to play as a unit more, be more clinical in the final third, and also show some solidity at the back.
The French players have to shine throughout the 90 minutes, and beat the hard-working Albanian team.
"Albania are very organised because they have an Italian coach, who has done a great job. They defend well but don't settle on that – they're good at breaking forward quickly. They work hard and it's impressive how much ground they cover. We saw that against Switzerland, where they deserved to equalise at the end," UEFA's official website quoted Deschamps as saying.
After a splendid display from Payet against Romania, the West Ham star will be involved in an intriguing battle with Albania's right back, Elseid Hysaj. The defender is said to have attracted interest from some top clubs across Europe. A solid performance against France will help his case and Albania's chances against the hosts.
With France expected to dominate possession, Albania's goalkeeper Etrit Berisha will expect to be busy throughout the match. The Lazio shotstopper might have been weak in letting a goal against Switzerland, but he made up for it with some great saves later in the game. If he can stop players like Giroud from scoring, anything can happen, but they also need their offensive players like Sokol Cikalleshi to deliver whenever a chance comes by.
Albania want to use their decent showing against Switzerland as inspiration ahead of their France match.
"We played quite well against Switzerland and blew an opportunity to score. For the best part of an hour we held firm against a good side with a better FIFA ranking than us. We have worked on trying to find the right balance and want put into action everything we have done in training," Albania coach Gianni de Biasi said.
Where to watch live
France vs Albania is scheduled for a 9 p.m. CET (12:30 a.m. IST, 8 p.m. BST, 3 p.m. EST) start. TV coverage and Live streaming options for Euro 2016 are given below.
India: TV: Sony Six/HD and Sony ESPN/HD. Live Streaming: Sonyliv.
France: TV: Bein Sports 1. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
Albania: Top Channel Albania
USA: TV: ESPN. Live Streaming: Watch ESPN.
Canada: TV: TSN and RDS. Live Streaming: TSN TV.
Australia: TV: Bein Sports and SBS One. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
Latin America: TV: DirecTV.
China and Hong Kong: TV: CCTV and LeTV.
Thailand: TV: Channel 3.
Singapore: TV: Eleven Singapore and Singtel. Live Streaming: Singtel Go.
Malaysia: TV: Astro.
Middle East and North Africa: TV: Bein Sports Max. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa: TV: SuperSport 3. Live Streaming: SuperSport