Euro 2016 | Day 1, France v Romania highlights & talking points: Magical Payet; struggling Giroud
France rode on a moment of brilliance from Dimitri Payet to secure a hard-fought 2-1 win over Romania in the opening game of the Euro 2016 at the Stade de France on Friday. The West Ham star, who orchestrated every attack, is increasingly looking like France's most important player in the lineup.
Stuttering start by Olivier Giroud
At half-time, Giroud's stats read: 16 touches, 2 shots off target, 0 shots on target, 0 chances created and more unbelievably, just 2 passes completed. The Arsenal forward, who was booed by the Gooners by the end of the season, reminded France exactly how much they missed Karim Benzema. It was not only Giroud though, as Antoine Griezmann, who was later substituted in the second half, missed some gilt-edged chances as well.
France produced a display in attack, which we knew they are capable off, at least in the build-up play. The front three of Dimitri Payet, Griezmann and Giroud showed brilliant movement in the final third, but what was missing was the ability to finish off the moves. Giroud offers France a nice contrast to the silky skilled, past faced attackers in the squad, but in the first-half that seemed more like a hindrance, rather than a plus point.
But credit to the Frenchman, he did not give up. He kept pushing forward and making those runs between the center-backs, before eventually scoring from a header. Didier Deschamps will hope that the goal will give him the confidence to go on and be more confident in front of the goal. France cannot rely on Payet to score screamers in every game in the Euros.
The magical Payet
When Payet was substituted in the 90th minute of the game, the West Ham United star had tears in his eyes as the whole Stade de France stood up and applauded the little genius. A player, who has so often been ignored by the national team and Deschamps in particular, was the best player on the pitch, in a team which had the likes of Paul Pogba and Griezmann. It was an approval of his influence in that match that when the team was in the desperate need for a goal, Deschamps substituted Pogba and the Atletico Madrid forward, but kept Payet on the pitch.
He created eight chances in the match against Romania; every other player on the pitch combined to create nine in total. Payet became the only the third West Ham United player to score in Euro after Geoff Hurst and Trevor Booking, and it further heightened the mystery how David Sullivan managed to land him at the club. The 29-year-old orchestrated every move for France in the attacking third, and although his set piece delivery was not always up to the mark on the night, he could have ended with more assists had the strikers been more clinical.
Just when it seemed like the dogged Romanian side will walk away with a point in the opening game, Payet produced one of the best goals we will witness in this tournament. What a strike it was, and to think that it came off his weaker foot! Ciprian Tatarusanu could do nothing but watch the ball sail into the top corner of the net, and Payet ran towards the crowd in celebration. What a player!
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