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Switzerland do the job against short-handed Albania

In Saturday's early match, the much-fancied Swiss needed but a single goal against Albania. The Albanians had a man sent off, and Switzerland started their Group A campaign with a historic 1-0 win.

The Swiss team, boasting a number of names familiar from the Bundesliga, came out with all guns blazing and were rewarded with a lead after only five minutes.

Former Bayern Munich midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri curled in a corner, Albanian keeper Etrit Berisha grabbed at the ball, but found only oxygen, and Hoffenheim defender Fabian Schär headed into an empty net.

It was a multicultural match pitting midfielders Granit Xhaka (Switzerland) against his brother Taulant (Albania), and indeed many of the players could have played for either side. The Albanians put up a good fight after falling behind and were unlucky not to level on the half-hour mark, when Armando Sadiku got past Hamburg defender Johann Djourou and found himself one on one with Swiss keeper Yaan Sommer. But the Mönchengladbach man pulled off a fine foot save.

UEFA EURO 2016 Schweiz - Albanien Yann Sommer

Yann Sommer is small for a keeper, but he came up really big against Albania

Six minutes later, Albanian Lorik Cana slipped just outside the penalty area and had to resort to his hands to prevent a Swiss chance. That earned him a second yellow, and his team was down to ten men. Blerim Dzemaili hammered the subsequent free kick off the post - at that point the underdogs were fortunate to go into the dressing room only one goal down.

Holding an advantage over a team deemed 500-to-1 outsiders to win the tournament, Switzerland didn't need to be too ambitious in the second half, and they weren't. Eintracht Frankfurt striker Haris Seferovic extended his tepid form from the Bundesliga, spurning a couple of chances, including a mano-a-mano against Berisha in minute 65.

The Swiss almost paid for their laissez-faire approach a quarter of an hour from time, but Sadiku could only hit the side netting. And with just five minutes left, Ergys Kace was left all by his lonesome in front of the goal, but had a case of nerves facing Sommer, who got a paw to his shot.

Schär's goal proved to be enough, but the consensus man of the match was Sommer. The keeper was essential in ensuring the Swiss didn't drop points in an embarrassing fashion.

The 1-0 win was the first time Switzerland have ever opened a European Championship with a victory. But there will be concerns about their central defense ahead of tougher opponents than the Albanians.

Switzerland next meet Romania on Wednesday in Paris, while Albania try their luck against hosts France in Marseilles.


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