Tue, Jun 21, 2016 - Page 20 News List

Ripped shirts and a burst ball as the hosts are held 0-0

AP, LILLE, France

Switzerland’s Blerim Dzemaili, left, shoots against France in their Euro 2016 Group A match at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, France, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

Though teams often swap shirts with their opponents after a game, Switzerland’s players were forced to change their own ones several times in an eventful 0-0 draw with France at Euro 2016 on Sunday.

Along with the four ripped shirts there was another unusual sight as the ball burst in the second half of a draw that sealed Switzerland’s place in the round-of-16 alongside an already-qualified France.

Granit Xhaka, who tore his shirt once in each half, joked that perhaps some shirt tugging from the France players was involved, because “it’s the only way to stop a Swiss player,” but in reality France were the stronger side and squandered several good chances — which they also did against Romania and Albania.

The result ended up suiting both, with France taking first place in Group A and Switzerland advancing in second place.

Tournament hosts France hit the crossbar twice courtesy of spectacular strikes from Paul Pogba and substitute Dimitri Payet, who hit a volley on the run from Moussa Sissoko’s cross.

Switzerland caught the eye more for their torn shirts than attacking play.

“It means there was a lot of fight on the pitch,” Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer said.

Switzerland midfielder Admir Mehmedi’s shirt was torn in the first half, forcing him to the sidelines to get a replacement.

“We spoke with the referee about it, but he said: ‘It’s the fault of your shirt,’” Switzerland midfielder Valon Behrami said.

Teenage striker Breel Embolo also slightly tore the back of his shirt in the first half.

“If a shirt is pulled, they can come apart,” Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic said. “When you pull shirts they do actually break.”

“I hope Puma does not produce condoms,” Xherdan Shaqiri told Swiss daily Blick.

France coach Didier Deschamps preferred to turn his attention to the rough state of the pitch, which cut up in places.

“It was better than the pitch we saw at Marseille [against Albania], but it’s annoying,” he said. “I don’t know who is responsible, but we are only in the group stage of the competition and having such a pitch is not a good thing.”

Then there was the match ball, which also came in for punishment.

As France pushed for a goal in the second half, forward Antoine Griezmann was dribbling when Switzerland midfielder Valon Behrami stepped in to tackle. The two converged on the ball and it burst, with Behrami picking it up and showing it to Slovenian referee Damir Skomina.

Just like in their previous games, France failed to turn their possession into goals.

“Everyone hopes we play better, the players do and so do I,” Deschamps said. “I’m not blind; I know we can do better.”

Even with a new ball to strike, France’s shots lacked conviction and Griezmann held his head in his hands when he placed his strike too close to Sommer after swapping passes with fellow striker Andre-Pierre Gignac and bursting into the penalty area.

Pogba also went close twice early in the first half, drawing smart saves from Sommer.

“Paul [Pogba] really was the driving force during the first half,” Deschamps said. “He was the heart and soul.”

Switzerland threatened mainly on the break, using the 19-year-old Embolo’s pace, but France looked more likely to score as Payet shot just wide from outside the penalty area late on.

Thanks to Pogba, it seemed like France’s midfield dominance might make the difference in the first half, but good situations were wasted.

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