France v Romania preview: Hosts kick off Euro 2016 in Paris
Hosts France will be looking to get Euro 2016 off to a winning start as they take on Romania in Friday’s opening game in Paris.
Les Bleus get the European Championship underway at the Stade de France in Group A and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy, as well as winning their last four international games.
France also have a good record when hosting a major international tournament – winning Euro 1984 and the World Cup in 1998 – and captain Hugo Lloris is hoping the home advantage will help the squad rather than be a hindrance.
“Every country has a different culture. It maybe didn’t help Brazil in [World Cup] 2014 but for us the public are going to be a great support. We just have to take advantage of it and to be proud.”
Romania qualified second in their group and one point behind winners Northern Ireland, remaining unbeaten through the campaign with five wins and five draws.
Anghel Iordanescu’s men had the sturdiest defence of the qualifying teams – conceding just twice in ten games – and the manager says that despite facing a better team, his side are aiming to make the knockout stages.
“France are clearly superior to us. Didier Deschamps has class players available, who play in the Champions League and Europa League.
“Mine play in Turkey, Bulgaria, Israel and Qatar. But that does not mean that we have surrendered. We all have the same goal – to move groups. ”
France had a number of senior players pull out of the 23-man squad ahead of the tournament, with Lassana Diarra, Mathieu Debuchy, Mamadou Sakho, Raphael Varane and Jeremy Mathieu all sidelined.
But the last week has seen a relatively calm period for France injuries with all the players expected to be fit for selection, including exciting youngster Kingsley Coman who has been nursing a calf injury over the last few days.
West Ham winger Dimitri Payet is set to join Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann in attack, according to reports in France, meaning Manchester United striker Anthony Martial may have to settle for a place on the bench.
Romania left-back Steliano Filip has been a concern with an ankle strain but he has been in training under the guidance of the medical team and should be available.
There are few recognisable names to English football fans, although Sunderland goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon and former Tottenham defender Vlad Chiriches are in the 23-man squad, with the latter declaring himself “100 per cent ready” after sitting out the final warm-up game against Georgia.
Elsewhere, Florin Andone (hand) and Ovidiu Hoba (knock) are also fit to start for a side that have the lowest average number of caps out of 24 Euro 2016 competitors.
France are unbeaten in their last 10 games against Romania (W5 D5). However, four of their last five encounters have ended in draws.
Romania’s last victory against France was in April 1972. It was in a friendly in Bucharest (2-0). This will be France and Romania’s third encounter at the Euros, all in the group stages. The two previous games produced only one goal, France winning in 1996 (1-0) before a goalless draw in 2008.
France have won six and drawn one of their seven tournament games at the Stade de France (World Cup, Confederations Cup).
Les Bleus are taking part in their ninth European Championship finals. They have won it twice: in 1984 as tournament hosts and in 2000. Only Germany and Spain have lifted the trophy on more occasions (3 each).
France have failed to score in five of their last eight games at Euro finals.
Romania have never Deschamps is leading France to their second major tournament as manager, after the 2014 World Cup (quarter finalists). He was captain the last time France won the EURO in 2000.
Iordanescu is taking charge of Romania at a major tournament for the fourth time after World Cup 1994, Euro 1996 and World Cup 1998. His previous best performance was reaching the quarter-finals with Gheorghe Hagi & co at USA 1994.
France are the host nation and, with the likes of Payet, Paul Pogba and Martial, I fancy them to get off to a flyer as the tournament gets underway in Paris.