BUCHAREST: World champions France are facing mounting injuries ahead of their Euro 2020 Round of 16 match against Switzerland on Monday, with coach Didier Deschamps struggling for options.
The French qualified less convincingly than initially expected after drawing 2-2 against Portugal in their final group game, having won one of three Group F games.
France left-back Lucas Hernandez had to be taken off with a knee injury after the first half and remains doubtful against Switzerland.
His replacement Lucas Digne is also nursing a hamstring injury and looks unlikely to be fit for Monday, forcing potential changes to Deschamps' defensive plans.
Digne's replacement in the game against Portugal, midfielder Adrien Rabiot, has himself been dealing with a nagging ankle injury since the end of the season and is not yet at 100per cent.
To make matters worse, Thomas Lemar suffered a leg injury and Marcus Thuram hurt his right thigh in training on Thursday, hobbling off the pitch with the support of medical staff.
France are already without Ousmane Dembele after the forward had to be taken off injured in their second group game against Hungary. Demebele has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament and will require knee surgery.
But despite the injuries France remain the clear favourites for the game against the Swiss.
Deschamps, attempting to become the first man to win World Cups and Euros both as player and coach, may be struggling with fit defenders but he has won back a striker.
Karim Benzema, who was recalled to the national team for the tournament after a nearly six-year absence, scored twice against Portugal.
The French have also never lost to the Swiss in a competitive game. While they are very familiar with the latter stages of a tournament, their opponents have not reached a quarter-final of a major tournament in 67 years, ever since the 1954 World Cup which they hosted.
Switzerland qualified as one of the best third-placed teams.
"Anything can happen in a tournament," said Switzerland defender Ricardo Rodriguez. "We are fit and ready. We have to be compact in defence and use our few chances. We know the French have a fantastic bench as well."
"We will give it all we have. We have already trained penalties and almost everyone scored," he smiled.
The winners will play the winners of the Round of 16 tie between Spain and Croatia.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Frances Kerry)