PARIS, June 15: Switzerland closed in on a spot in the knockout stages of the European Championship for the first time with a 1-1 draw against Romania on Wednesday.
Admir Mehmedi scored a 57th-minute equalizer with a powerful left-foot shot to ensure the Swiss have four points ahead of their final Group A match against leader France, which qualified Wednesday for the round of 16 after a 2-0 victory over Albania.
In its three previous appearances at the European Championship, Switzerland has never got beyond the group stage. Against Romania, it missed an opportunity to hit coach Vladimir Petkovic's target of two straight wins to clinch advancement with a game to spare.
Although Romania then hit the post through Cristian Sapunaru's shot, Switzerland had more and better scoring chances.
In contrast, the big Swiss failed with two early shots after teammates picked out his clever runs at the heart of Romania's defense.
"It's not that we can't create them. We just don't finish them," said Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka, who got his second straight man of the match award.
Romania has only one point from two matches, but can still finish second in the group by beating Albania in its last match.
The new 24-team format also means the third-place teams in the six groups have a good chance to reach the round of 16.