France crushes Albania to top group

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    VIVE LA FRANCE: France’s Antoine Griezmann is hoisted by a teammate as he celebrates qualifying for the Euro 2020 finals after the match. REUTERS PHOTO
    VIVE LA FRANCE: France’s Antoine Griezmann is hoisted by a teammate as he celebrates qualifying for the Euro 2020 finals after the match. REUTERS PHOTO

    TIRANA, Albania — World Cup champion France produced a fitting inaugural match in Albania’s newly-built Arena Kombetare Stadium after goals from Corentin Tolisso and Antoine Griezmann gave it a 2-0 win in a Euro 2020 Group H qualifier on Sunday.

    Having already booked their berth in next year’s 24-nation tournament, the French finished top of the group on 25 points from 10 games, two ahead of second-placed Turkey, which cruised to a 2-0 win at Andorra.

    Albania, which had no chance of breaking into the top two, looked subdued in front of a passionate home crowd and UEFA dignitaries including the soccer governing body’s chief Aleksander Ceferin.

    Tolisso fired the French into an eighth-minute lead when he headed home superbly inside the near post after Griezmann swung in an inviting free kick from the left.

    Griezmann netted the second in the 31st minute when he turned in a sharp low cross by Leo Dubois, as the gulf in class between the two sides was everywhere to be seen in front of a capacity 22,000 crowd.

    France continued to press after the break and Olivier Giroud missed three chances to extend its lead, having twice been denied by goalkeeper Etrit Berisha before hitting the post with a fierce shot from inside the penalty area.

    Turkey, which also sealed qualification with a match to spare, breezed past Andorra thanks to a first-half brace from striker Enes Unal.

    In the group’s other fixture, Iceland eked out a 2-1 win in Moldova and although the Nordic nation failed to progress from the group, it will have another chance through the playoffs in March. – Reuters