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Euros 2016: Kante, France into the knockout round

Two late goals sealed France's fate, while Leicester City midfielder N'Golo Kante was a force all over the pitch

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Euro 2016 host nation France became the first team to qualify for the Round of 16 after a 2-0 win against tournament debutants Albania.

Didier Deschamps made two changes to the side that defeated Romania in the opening match, replacing Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann with Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial.

Despite dominating play, France struggled to break down a compact Albanian side. In a game where they should have looked to be direct, France stuck to their normal guns, favoring moving the ball around in search of an opening in the defence.

With Albania spending the majority of the game camped out in their own half, France struggled to find a final ball, particularly in the first 45 minutes. Albania succeeded in crowding the middle, making it very difficult for France to fire off a shot away.

France came out of the halftime break looking the better side, but started the second 45 by replacing Martial with Pogba. The midfield trio of Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, and N'Golo Kanté has looked impressive these past couple games, but the three were unable to make a breakthrough.

Albania had a rare chance of their own with an early, second-half strike against the post; probably being their best chance of the match. Some questions can be raised of France's backline, as Patrice Evra once again appeared to struggle defensively, often needing assistance from Kanté as Albania broke.

After that scare France appeared to wake up, creating some excellent chances of their own. Olivier Giroud somehow managed to miss two headers from point blank range. At this point, the match screamed of a 0-0 draw.

Finally Deschamps made the key change, bringing Griezmann into the match. The Atletico Madrid frontman made an immediate impact, scoring a last-minute header to give France the 1-0 lead.

Dimitri Payet added a second in the 96th minute, the latest goal regulation goal in Euros history to cap off another Man Of The Match performance.

Although the scoreline was comfortable, France really did struggle throughout the match to break down a compact side, raising some question marks over the tournament favorites. Their final match against a far stronger Switzerland side should be the indicator of how far they can go in their home tournament.

First to qualify. #FirstNeverFollows

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