The hosts were below their best in the opening game but that didn’t stop them recording a 10th win in 11 games and with those nerves out of the way they will expect to grow into the tournament. A game against the side we rank as the worst in the tournament looks a good way to help them do that and explains why they are the shortest favourites of any team in the next round of group games.
Albania’s qualification was helped by a 1-0 win over a below-strength Portugal (who were missing Ronaldo) at the start of the campaign and then a three points awarded when their game with Serbia was abandoned. Goals were definitely at a premium in their qualifiers as they failed to score in three of their seven completed matches and it’s been over 10 years since they last scored more than once against a side ranked in our top 40.
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In Euros, World Cups and Copa Americas since 1990 we’ve got 17 matches in our records where the host country faced a side ranked 30-100 places below them and they went W14-D2-L1, with 12 Win/Win HT/FT results, 11 wins by more than one goal and eight by at least three. 12 of these matches also had at least three goals with seven having four or more. Ignoring whether the higher ranked side was also the host then we have 42 matches in opening group stages where one side was 30-100 places higher and the lower ranked side had lost their previous game in the competition; 62% of these had at least three goals.
An early France goal will mean that Albania need to try and play a more expansive game than they are used to and that could open the floodgates so we prefer to back France on the handicaps with a great chance that they win by three or more. Given that, we also like the ‘overs’ in the goals markets with Over 2.5 available to back at about 1.8.
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