PARIS (AP) Switzerland has extra motivation to upset host France when the teams meet Sunday at the European Championship.
A win for the Swiss would ensure first place in Group A and help erase the memory of a stinging 5-2 loss to Les Bleus at the World Cup two years ago.
Although the pressure is somewhat off for France because it has already qualified for the knockout stages with two wins, it needs a much improved performance to remove some nagging doubts.
France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is worried Les Bleus “could pay for it” if they continue to underperform like they did in the first two matches against Romania and Albania, where late goals compensated for sloppy first halves.
But he also said some of the criticism his team has received is exaggerated.
“We’re aware that we need to improve, but if you look at the other games, all the big teams have their problems,” Lloris said. “That’s why you have to keep a certain sense of calm.”
The Swiss certainly will not read anything into France’s below-par performances.
The lopsided loss at the World Cup could even have been even worse that day, because Karim Benzema had a late goal incorrectly ruled out and also hit the post.
“It’s going to a very difficult match. The last time, we got a harsh lesson at the World Cup and we mustn’t make those mistakes again,” Switzerland midfielder Valon Behrami said. “They have players who can change a match at any moment.”
The problem for France is that the players are only making the difference right at the very end, needing an 89th-minute strike from Dimitri Payet to beat Romania 2-1 and a 90th-minute header from substitute Antoine Griezmann to break Albania’s resistance in a 2-0 win on Wednesday.
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“This Euro is very difficult,” France striker Olivier Giroud said. “We’d like to score earlier in games and make things easier for ourselves.”
Switzerland will look to expose France’s weakness defending corners and set pieces. The Swiss scored from corners in the 1-1 draw with Romania and the 1-0 win over Albania.
France conceded a goal from Blerim Dzemaili’s low free kick at the World Cup two years ago, and this time will need to keep a close eye on defender Fabian Schaer.
He scored with a header against Albania for his sixth goal in 22 international matches, and headed both goals in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Norway in September 2013.
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France and Switzerland’s strikers have been wasting chances galore.
While Olivier Giroud scored for France against Romania, he has squandered another five clear chances in the first two games.
Switzerland forward Haris Seferovic has gone one better, having missed six so far. Seferovic struggled this season, scoring only three league goals in 29 games for German club Eintracht Frankfurt.