France coach Didier Deschamps hailed the mercurial talents of playmaker Dimitri Payet after he struck a stunning late winner to rescue the hosts in a 2-1 win over Romania in the opening match of Euro 2016 on Friday.
Payet was the best player on show throughout a nervy display from France as he also teed up Olivier Giroud for the opening goal before Bogdan Stancu’s equaliser from the penalty spot threatened to spoil the hosts’ party.
However, Payet smashed the ball into the top corner a minute from time before breaking down in tears as he left the pitch to a standing ovation in stoppage time.
“I have no doubts over Dimitri and the influence he can have on the game. He can make the difference,” said Deschamps, who made a brave call to keep Payet on the field when he substituted stars Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba in the second half.
“It is quite easy when you can bang it into the top corner, it solves a lot of problems.”
Payet’s heroic efforts ensured a happy end to an emotional night at the Stade de France, just seven months after it was a target in the terrorist attacks which killed 130 people in Paris in November.
And Deschamps admitted that the expectations of a nation had weighed heavy on his players in an under-par display.
“The opening match of a competition is a bit like a Cup final and we were a bit timid in the opening 25 minutes.
“It is the result that matters above all. We know not everything was perfect, far from it.
“This Romanian side showed they are very organised and it is very important to start with a victory.”