France and Switzerland finished first and second respectively in Group A after a goalless draw in Lille on Sunday. Paul Pogba and Dimitri Payet both hit the woodwork for France as the Euro 2016 hosts clinched the point they needed to secure top spot.
France boss Didier Deschamps, whose side had already qualified for the round of 16, made five changes to his starting lineup, with Pogba and Antoine Griezmann among those restored while Payet and Olivier Giroud were rested. Switzerland — who knew that a point would guarantee a top-two finish — gave Breel Embolo a start in attack after two wasteful displays by Haris Seferovic.
They might have taken the lead on eight minutes when Pogba deflected a corner toward his own goal, but Switzerland defender Johan Djourou blocked the ball in front of the line in his attempt to steer it past France No. 1 Hugo Lloris. Juventus star Pogba was soon showing his ability at the other end, making space on the edge of the area before forcing Switzerland keeper Yann Sommer into a good save and then firing a shot across the face of goal.
On 17 minutes, he came even closer, charging forward before unleashing a powerful, swerving effort that struck the top of the bar. Both sides continued to show some attacking intent, but that proved to be by some distance the clearest chance of the first half. Switzerland were the more dominant side after the restart, although Les Bleusstill threatened on occasion, with Griezmann denied by a strong tackle by Valon Behrami — which burst the ball — before the Atletico Madrid forward brought a good save from Sommer on 57 minutes after a one-two with Andre-Pierre Gignac.
Deschamps brought Payet on for Kingsley Coman just after the hour-mark, and the West Ham United playmaker came within inches of breaking the deadlock on 75 minutes when he crashed a superb volley against the underside of the bar after Moussa Sissoko had broken away down the right flank. Payet, who knows Lille’s Stade Pierre-Mauroy well after two years with the club, flashed another shot wide shortly afterwards. He was later presented with a free kick in a promising area but could not make it count. Switzerland saw a late penalty appeal waved away when Bacary Sagna appeared to pull substitute Seferovic’s shirt, but ultimately the match finished in a draw that saw both advance to the round of 16.
A Freelance Journalist, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist. Editor-in-Chief of www.233times.com. A contributory writer for Ghanaian Chronicle Newspaper. An alumnus of Adisadel College where he read General Arts. He holds first degree in Bachelor of Arts from the University of Ghana; Political Science (major) and History (minor). He has also pursued MSc Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Energy with Public Relations (PR) at the Robert Gordon University in the United Kingdom. He is a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow (YALI) who studied at Clark Atlanta University on the Business and Entrepreneurship track. His mentors are Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffet, Sam Jonah, Kwaku Sakyi Addo and Piers Morganview all posts by: Nana Kwesi Coomson
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