PARIS: Armando Sadiku made history for Albania on Sunday (Monday in Manila) as his goal secured a 1-0 win against Romania at Euro 2016 to give the Balkan nation their first ever victory at a major tournament.
Meanwhile, hosts France clinched top spot in Group A with a goalless draw against Switzerland that took their opponents through to the last 16 as well.
Sadiku headed a Ledian Memushaj cross over goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu two minutes before half-time in Lyon as Albania scored their first goal at the tournament to keep alive their chances of reaching the last 16.
Romania were eliminated while Gianni De Biasi’s Albania, with three points and a negative goal difference, must now wait until the completion of the final round of group matches before finding out if they qualify for the last 16 as one of the four best third-placed sides.
Albania had lost their opening two games and thousands of people took to the streets of the capital Tirana, waving flags, sounding car horns and lighting flares in celebration of their team’s historic victory.
“I am sure the Albanians will be really happy. Not only those who live in Albania but also those who are spread around the world,” said the team’s Italian coach De Biasi.
“I’m very happy for the team, in the first two games we didn’t get what we deserved, but today we won against a team that are very difficult to play against, very well organised defensively.”
In Lille, Didier Deschamps’s France, for whom Paul Pogba shone through in a poor game against the Swiss, can look forward to a theoretically easier draw in the next round as group winners.
Pogba, much criticised over a contentious gesture at the end of Wednesday’s 2-0 win against Albania, clearly felt he had a point to prove as he came out of the traps flying in a game played on an awful surface in Lille.
He saw an early shot saved by Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer and then smashed an effort from 25 yards onto the bar and over.
The star of France’s opening two games, Dimitri Payet, began the evening on the bench but came on in the 63rd minute and left the crossbar shuddering with a side-footed volley from Moussa Sissoko’s deep cross.
“We had the chances and hit the bar twice. We were there to secure first place and we did it, so it is mission accomplished,” France coach Deschamps told TV station M6.
As group winners, France will face the third-placed team in either Group C, D or E in Lyon on June 26, while Switzerland will come up against either Germany, Poland or Northern Ireland a day earlier in Saint-Etienne.
It will be the first time the Swiss have featured in the knockout phase of a European Championship.
“We’ll wait and see who we play against and then we’ll be ready. We can hold our own with strong opponents and we still have time to improve,” said Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic.
Earlier on Sunday UEFA made Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, Hungary and Belgium the latest targets of disciplinary proceedings over fan troubles.
Portugal have been charged with allowing a pitch invasion after one man passed security at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Saturday night and rushed up to Ronaldo to get a selfie with him.
Security guards waited for the photo to be taken before leading the fan away at the end of the 0-0 draw with Austria.
Hungary have been charged for allowing crowd disturbances and other offences in their match against Iceland on Saturday, and Belgium too after their fans set off fireworks and threw objects in their game against the Republic of Ireland.
On Monday, England and Wales will aim to cement their places in the knockout phase of Euro 2016 as all four Group B sides remain in with a realistic chance of reaching the last 16.
England face Slovakia in Saint-Etienne knowing that a draw would send them through to the next round, with a victory guaranteeing top spot and a last 16 game in Paris.
Wales will book their place in the last 16 with a victory over Russia, but a draw could also be sufficient to see the tournament debutants advance.
“I’d probably rather know. I like to know where I’m at on the leaderboard.”