France continued to lack a cutting edge in front of goal and this time were not saved by a piece of individual genius. However, this 0-0 does see them top Group A which is all Didier Deschamps’ men and the French public will care about.
France shocked many by naming a much-changed line-up for this match despite needing to avoid defeat to ensure they claimed top spot in Group A, Matuidi, Kante, Payet and Giroud made way for Cabaye, Sissoko, Griezmann and Gignac.
Despite all the changes, the game got off to an electric start, Switzerland started on the front foot and came mightily close when Pogba inadvertently flicked a corner towards his own goal, only for the despairing Johan Djourou searching for a flick on to block it on the line.
France quickly seized control after that early scare. Paul Pogba started to get on the ball and dominate the midfield. He soon saw his vicious long-range effort parried by Yann Sommer onto his own crossbar. Just moments later, Pogba popped up on the French left-hand side and had his shot saved from a tight angle again by Sommer. From the resulting corner, Sommer could only flap at Cabaye’s cross. Pogba showed no signs of letting up and in the 17th minute, he hit a pile-driver from 25 yards out onto the cross bar.
Switzerland tried to respond but could only muster up a deflected shot from Džemalli, which Lloris only just prevented going out for a corner. Their only other effort of note in the first half was from Admir Mehmedi who cut in from wide and shot well over.
The game then rather lost its flow and petered out. Few chances were created in the final 2o minutes of the half but the players were not helped by the state of the pitch. Just as feared, the pitch has suffered from recent heavy rainfall and looked a really poor surface. All half, players were slipping which dramatically reduced the quality of the game. After the frantic start, the teams came off at half-time somewhat surprisingly tied at 0-0.
After the break, both sides struggled for rhythm, the first chance went to France when Gignac cut into the box from the left but could only fire tamely into the hands of Yann Sommer. They then looked to be in again when Johan Djourou sold his goalkeeper horribly short with a poor backpass which he presented straight to Antoine Griezmann, only a last-gasp tackle from Valon Behrami spared his blushes.
Switzerland continued to dominate possession but France continued to create the best chances and in the 58th minute, France put together the best move of the match. It all started with the strength of Paul Pogba to win the ball back from Switzerland, he then played the ball to Griezmann who ran forward and played a lovely one-two with Gignac before striking at goal, only to see his effort finely saved by Yann Sommer with his right-hand.
The stadium then got to its feet and the biggest cheer of the night was heard and it was greeting the arrival of ‘golden boy’ Dimitri Payet. Payet was soon involved in a move of outstanding quality. Moussa Sissoko won the ball in his own half and drove with the ball all the way to the edge of Switzerland’s penalty area before floating a ball over to Payet who made sweet contact on the volley, agonisingly for him, his effort crashed off the bar. Payet then fired just wide from the edge of the box in the 80th minute. There was no doubt that his arrival energised the French team. Payet tried his best to get the breakthrough but alas he could not as he saw his goal-bound free kick blocked by team-mate Moussa Sissoko late in the game.
Just as we were all accepting a draw, the game offered up one last flashpoint. The ball was flung into the French box and as Mehmedi challenged for it his shirt was being pulled by Bacary Sagna. The Swiss had what looked to be a valid shout for a penalty but the referee didn’t agree and as a result the match finished goalless.
This result secures France’s passage as group leaders and as Romania were defeated 1-0 by Albania, the Swiss claimed the runners-up spot and qualify for the knock-out stages of a European Championships for the first time ever.
Man of the Match: Paul Pogba
Pogda ran the show for France today and although they didn’t actually score it wasn’t for the want of trying from the man. He went mightily close on more than one occasion in the first half and throughout the game his strength and anticipation was key for France in the midfield. He played a beautiful pass to Griezmann in the second half to set up one of France’s best attempts and was a thorn in the side of the Swiss all game.
Switzerland- Sommer, Lichtsteiner, Schär, Djourou, Rodríguez, Behrami, Xhaka, Shaqiri, Džemaili, Mehmedi, Embolo
France- Lloris, Sagna, Rami, Koscielny, Evra, Sissoko, Cabaye, Pogba, Griezmann, Coman, Gignac