France vs Romania

Euro 2016 opens with the hosts, France, playing against Romania at the Stade de France in Paris, kicking off the biggest European Championship to date.

France have been scorching in the matches leading up to this match, kicking off their attempt to win another tournament they’re hosting, like in the 1984 European Championship and the 1998 World Cup. In their most recent win over Scotland (3-0) Olivier Giroud was sharp with a brace and Laurent Koscielny scored as well. The lineup from that match, that included Dimitri Payet and Kingsley Coman playing on the wings of Giroud, will change with just one name: Antoine Griezmann of Atletico Madrid will probably start instead of Coman.

In the midfield it’ll be Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, while Hugo Lloris will have Koscielny, Adil Rami, Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna defending the penalty box. It’s interesting that France have been unable to produce a pair of wingbacks to lower the average age in the defensive line, but in terms of quality defensively, there’s a huge dropoff when Didier Deschamps looks at his bench, compared to the depth he has upfront and in the midfield.

Romania, the underdogs, looked good in a 5-1 win over Georgia, but will play a lot more defensively as they hope to go through the first two matches of the tournament, with two points and a nice setup for their final match against Albania. Their 4-5-1 formation will remain the same, only with a lot less possession, creativity and attempts to build up on their own.

They key players on attack will be Bogdan Stancu of Gençlerbirliği and Nicolae Stanciu of Steaua, both playing behind the target man, Florin Andone, who plays his football at Cordoba. If they’re capable of controlling the long balls and maintaining possession while surprising the French defense from time to time, things could get awkward, especially if they score an early goal, as they’re quite comfortable sitting back and relying on counters.

France are the big favorites, but they have a knack of messing up early in recent tournaments, still missing the dominance and aura of invincibility of 1998-2000. Romania have been missing from major tournaments for quite some time and it’s been a very long while since they’ve made a mark on one, but despite the lack of star power and players from big clubs, they’re capable of forcing their kind of pace and style by congesting the midfield and defending the wings well. France aren’t in for a stroll in Paris.

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