Dimitri Payet provided a sparkling start to Euro 2016 with a spectacular late goal to gives host France victory over Romania at the Stade de France. Didier Deschamps’ side was heading for a disappointing draw to kick off the tournament after Bogdan Stancu converted a penalty shortly after Olivier Giroud had given France a second-half lead. But less than two minutes from the end, Payet curled a sensational left-footed shot into the top corner of the net to send the home crowd into wild celebrations.
It completed a fine performance from Payet, perhaps the only France player who rose to the occasion in an opening match that was always likely to bring plenty of nerves for the favorite to lift the trophy in a month’s time. The West Ham star had set up Giroud’s opening goal in the 57th minute with a fine cross that was missed by Romania goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu, allowing the Arsenal striker to head into the net.
But Romania, a massive underdog going into the match, continued to display belief that it could get something from the game. And eight minutes after falling behind, Nicolae Stanciu was brought down in the box by a clumsy challenge from Patrice Evra. Stancu, who had missed a golden chance in the opening minutes of the match, sent Hugo Lloris the wrong way from 12 yards.
A sign of France’s disappointment, star men Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann were both withdrawn by Deschamps as his side went in search of a winner. And it was no surprise that Payet provided it.
The 29-year-old has been far from a regular for France in his career and looked unlikely to even make the squad just a few months ago. But after a fine first season in the Premier League with West Ham, Payet came into Euro 2016 with two goals in his last three matches for his country to earn a starting berth.
And he will certainly not be left out now, after capping a taslimanic performance with a winner that will live long in the French memory.