Sunday’s group A encounter between Romania and Albania will mark the start of the culmination of the group stages in the UEFA Euro 2016. With Albania having no points in the bag courtesy of two 1-0 defeats at the hands of France and Switzerland, qualification for the next round is seemingly impossible.
Romania drew 1-1 with the Swiss after their narrow opening day loss to hosts France. Victory will, in all probability, ensure progression to the next round for the Romanians.
Group A is quite evenly poised with respect to chances for qualification. While France have already secured a berth in the next round, Switzerland are also in pole position to make it as the 2nd or 3rd placed team in the group. Victory for Romania and a loss for Switzerland with an apropos change in goal difference would see Romania clinch the second position.
For Albania, only victory would leave them with a mathematical chance of progression, depending upon how other 3rd placed teams fare in their respective groups. Let’s take a look at 5 players who will play a significant role in deciding the outcome of this crucial encounter.
#1 Vlad Chiriches
Ardent followers of the English Premier League might remember Vlad Chiriches playing for Tottenham in 2013-2015. Two unremarkable seasons at Spurs saw him move on to Napoli in the Serie A. Although only a fringe player at Napoli in the past 2 seasons, Chiriches has been reliable when called upon.
While Chiriches does not get much game time for his club, he has been a pivotal figure for his national team in recent times. Having made his debut during Euro qualifying in 2011 against Luxembourg, Chiriches has gone on to make 42 appearances for Romania. He has also led the side ably in the absence of other senior figures.
A typical no-nonsense defender of the 1980’s mould, Chiriches puts everything into a tackle and takes no prisoners. The 2013 Romanian player of the year will need to marshal his defences ably to ensure Albania’s counter-attacking raids do not end up with the ball in the Romanian net as an end product.