Dimitri Payet admitted that he was overwhelmed by emotion after his stunning 89th-minute winner for France in the opening tie of the European Championship, against Romania. The West Ham United forward gave the hosts a 2-1 victory with his goal from outside the area, which he sent fizzing into the top corner with his left foot, and when he was substituted in stoppage time he could not hold back the tears.
“There was a lot of stress and a lot of pressure,” Payet said. “The emotion came out with that goal. If someone had told me beforehand that it would have gone like this, I would not have believed them. The opening tie is always tricky and we were timid in the opening quarter of the game. But we showed that we could win. Maybe if we had won by two or three goals it might have misled us. This shows there are no easy games.”
Didier Deschamps, the France manager, who introduced two strikers, Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial, in place of Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba as he chased the win, admitted that there were negatives about the performance. He mentioned how his players had struggled to “manage” the emotion of the opening ceremony and he agreed with Payet that they had been “timid” in the opening 25 minutes.
“It was a tricky match, which was made complicated by Romania,” Deschamps said. “For 20 or 25 minutes we had a tough time. The opening match is a bit like a cup final and we were timid. Maybe we put too much pressure on ourselves, subconsciously. Not everything was perfect, far from it. But victory is very positive and it is important to begin with one. Clearly, the result is what matters.”
Deschamps described Payet as the “difference-maker” and his goal as “wonderful”. He added: “It’s quite easy in football when you can bang it into the top corner. It solves a lot of problems. There were strong emotions for Payet. He has come a long way in a short space of time. I’ll put him on ice now.
“It was a very emotional occasion. Perhaps we were made to pay for the opening ceremony. I didn’t want to say this beforehand but Romania had nothing to lose while we had everything to lose. This will give us greater confidence and calmness.”