Payet’s role, Deschamps vindicated: 5 things learnt from Euro 2016 opener

  • AFP, Paris
  • Updated: Jun 11, 2016 11:27 IST
France's players celebrate after their last-gasp win over Romania. (AFP)

France got their month-long festival of football off to a winning start, but only just, as Dimitri Payet’s sensational late strike handed the hosts a nervy 2-1 win over Romania in the opening game of Euro 2016 in Paris on Friday.

Here’s a look at five things we learned from the European Championships’ opener.

Tearful Payet pulls the strings

Dimitri Payet (L) is in tears after scoring France’s winner. (AFP)

There were doubts as to whether the West Ham playmaker would even start as he battled with Manchester United’s Anthony Martial for a place in Didier Deschamps’s line-up.

However, Payet rewarded Deschamps’s faith in style with a brilliant overall display capped off by his assist to Olivier Giroud for the opening goal and a thunderous strike into the top corner when France seemed set to get off to an underwhelming start.

Read | Dimitri Payet stunner gives France 2-1 win over Romania in Euro 2016 opener

A 24-team Euros remains competitive

Bogdan Stancu’s penalty gave Romania a chance, but Stancu couldn’t finish with his other chances well enough for Romania to hold on to the point. (AFP)

Fears that extending the European Championship to 24 from 16 teams could lead to many more uncompetitive clashes between giants and minnows were dispelled for the opening night at least as Romania more than held their own.

Under the old system, Anghel Iordanescu’s side would have struggled to qualify after finishing runners-up to Northern Ireland in Group F, yet could have got a least a point but for some poor finishing by Bogdan Stancu when presented with two great chances to open the scoring.

France’s dodgy defence raises doubts

The absence of the likes of Raphael Varane was felt in France’s creaky defence against Romania. (AFP)

Shorn of Raphael Varane and Jeremy Mathieu through injury and Mamadou Sakho due to a provisional doping ban, fears over France’s ability to win the competition with an under-strength backline look justified as it creaked against a Romania side that scored just 11 goals in 10 qualifying matches.

Giroud makes his mark

Olivier Giroud was booed by his own fans in France’s friendly win over Cameroon, but proved himself when it mattered. (AFP)

The much-maligned Arsenal striker had attracted boos from French fans in some of Les Bleus’ warm-up friendlies as serious doubts were raised over his ability to fire the hosts to glory in the absence of Real Madrid star Karim Benzema -- who has been excluded from the squad over his role in a sex-tape blackmail scandal of then international teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

The doubters may have not been fully won over as Giroud failed to hit the target with two good headed chances in the first-half.

However, he got his moment of glory as he rose above Romanian goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu to head home the opening goal of the tournament from Payet’s cross.

Deschamps vindicated

Didier Deschamps’ faith in Payet’s abilities was vindicated. (AFP)

Despite recognising his side’s performance had been “far from perfect”, Deschamps got all the big calls right.

Even when Martial was introduced as France searched for the winner, Deschamps sacrificed star Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba to keep Payet in midfield from where his moment of magic decided the match.


Euro 2016: No doubts over Payet’s influence, says France coach Deschamps

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