France not about to make light of Albania
Friday, January 1, 2016
France are unbeaten in four competitive games in Marseille but the UEFA EURO 2016 hosts' friendly defeat by Albania in June 2015 is a warning that their Group A guests are no pushover.
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France have not lost in their last four competitive games in Marseille, but the UEFA EURO 2016 hosts know from recent experience that Group A opponents Albania are not a side to be underestimated.
• Albania got the better of France in the two centralised friendlies played in conjunction with the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying competition. They drew the first encounter 1-1 in Rennes before winning 1-0 at home in Elbasan thanks to a goal from Ergys Kaçe.
• The teams for that game, on 13 June 2015, were:
Albania: Berisha, Lila (Memushaj 18), Hysaj, Aliji, Ajeti, Lenjani (Rama 56), Cana, Basha (Lilaj 71), Kaçe (Balaj 80), Roshi (Sadiku 64), Çikalleshi (Fejzullahu 88).
France: Lloris, Jallet (Sagna 71), Evra, Varane, Sakho, Kondogbia, Griezmann (Ntep 59), Gonalons (Valbuena 59), Giroud (Fekir 46), Payet (Pogba 46).
• France had won the four previous meetings – all UEFA European Championship qualifiers – with a goal difference of +10.
• Les Bleus' biggest victory in that sequence was a 5-0 success at the Parc des Princes in EURO '92 qualifying, with Franck Sauzée and Jean-Pierre Papin both scoring twice.
EURO facts – France
• France are unbeaten in their last four competitive games in Marseille (W3 D1). This is their first competitive match in the city since a 3-0 victory against South Africa in the 1998 FIFA World Cup group stage.
• Marseille was also the venue for the 3-2 triumph over Portugal that took France to the final of the 1984 UEFA European Championship.
• Their overall record in 13 games in the city is W6 D3 L4 (W3 D1 L1 in competitive games).
• France are one of only three nations to have won a EURO as final tournament hosts, along with Spain (1964) and Italy (1968).
EURO facts – Albania
• Albania are one of two countries making their major tournament debut at UEFA EURO 2016 along with Iceland.
• Albania's record in qualifying was W4 D2 L2.
Coach and player links
• The game is taking place two days after France midfielder Kingsley Coman's 20th birthday.
• Albania captain Lorik Cana – who lives in the Marseille area – plays in France for Nantes along with international team-mate Ermir Lenjani, who was previously at Rennes.
• Cana – who misses this game through suspension – came through the youth system at Paris Saint-Germain and was part of the side that finished second in Ligue 1 in 2003/04. He was a league runner-up twice during a four-year spell at Marseille (2005–09) and twice a losing French Cup finalist (2006, 2007).
• Cana left Marseille for Sunderland in the summer of 2009, just as current France boss Didier Deschamps took charge of the club. Deschamps was thus Cana's coach for only a matter of weeks in pre-season.
• Have played together:
Steve Mandanda (France) and Lorik Cana (Albania) – Marseille, 2005–09