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Last gasp France into Euros last 16

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Marseille:Late goals from Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet booked hosts France’s place in the last 16 of Euro 2016 after overcoming stiff resistance from European Championship debutants Albania.

Atletico Madrid forward Griezmann came off the bench in Marseille to head the opener in the 90th minute before West Ham United’s Payet strengthened his reputation by smashing home a second deep into stoppage time.

Payet also struck a late winner as France opened the tournament with a nervy 2-1 win over Romania.

“This is becoming a bit of a habit, I’d prefer us to break the deadlock a bit earlier,” said a relieved French coach Didier Deschamps.

“Until the final whistle is blown there is still a chance to win the game, especially against teams who you have to wear down.”

However, two leave-it-late wins left doubts about whether Deschamps’s side can repeat the feats of French sides past at the 1984 Euros and 1998 World Cup by winning on home soil.

Deschamps surprisingly left Juventus star Paul Pogba and Griezmann on the bench in the only two changes from the game against Romania.

Les Bleus only kicked into gear with Pogba and Griezmann reunited with the mercurial Payet after the break.

“We needed a win to qualify, and it’s done,” Griezmann told French television.

“The coach had told me that I would be a substitute. I knew it and I wanted to do what I had to do once I got on.”

Griezmann finally made the breakthrough as the clock ticked into stoppage time, stooping to turn home Adil Rami’s cross. And Payet capped another man-of-the-match performance by firing into the far corner to round off a harsh scoreline on Albania.

France next face Switzerland in Lille on Sunday with the Swiss also on the verge of reaching the knockout stage after a 1-1 draw with Romania in Paris.

PTI

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