Paris: Dimitri Payet left the field in tears of joy after scoring the sensational last-gasp goal in France’s 2-1 win over Romania to launch their European Championship campaign in style on Friday.
“It was a lot of stress, a lot of pressure, if someone had told me it would have gone like that I don’t think I would have believed them,” said Payet. “It was that emotion that came out in the goal,” added the 29-year-old who has broken into the France team this year after a stunning season with West Ham United in the English Premier League.
France's Dimitri Payet shows his delight after scoring a late winner during Euro 2016 match against Romania at Stade de France in Paris on Friday. France won 2-1. Pic/AFP
Payet was France’s standout performer as he also set up Olivier Giroud’s opening goal. After Romania equalised and seemed to be holding on for a draw, Payet struck in the 89th minute with a 25 metre shot to take the tournament opener.
Payet left the field in tears in stoppage time as he was substituted to a standing ovation at an emotional Stade de France, just seven months after the stadium was targeted in the attacks that killed 130 people in Paris in November.
After the final whistle, Payet embraced his small son on the field. Payet said he had been overcome by the way he has fought his way into the French team. “At the start of the season, a lot of people would have found it hard to believe I would be here,” said the attacking midfielder. “I have got here by working hard,” added the hero of the night, who is determined to “soak up the experience” of playing in Euro 2016.
“It is quite easy when you can bang it into the top corner, it solves a lot of problems,” said a relieved French coach Didier Deschamps. “It is the result that matters above all.”
Deschamps was thoroughly vindicated in his decision to select the former Marseille playmaker over Manchester United’s Anthony Martial.
“I have no doubts over Dimitri and the influence he can have on the game. He can make the difference.”