It was a slow start for the tournament favourites in Paris on Friday night. France appeared to feel the pressure placed on them by an 80000 strong Stade de France crowd in the long awaited opener to Euro 2016. However against a much inferior Romanian side, it took a moment of magic from Dimitri Payet late in the day to give them the win. It seems that the West Ham star is capable of taking them all the way in the tournament.
Much of the pre-match hype revolved around Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba, the superstars of the French line up. However both failed to shine on the opening day, and were replaced by Didier Deschamps with Les Bleu searching for a winner.
It shows just how well Payet has done at West Ham this season, given that it was only a year ago that Deschamps said he wasn’t good enough to make the squad. His performances in England have made him a crucial member of this France team, something shown by the fact that he was picked ahead of impressive Manchester United youngster, Anthony Martial.
The 29-year-old was one of the very few French players, alongside Leicester City’s N’Golo Kante, to perform at their best on the opening night. His brilliant goal was just reward for a superb performance by the attacking midfielder, who became only the second French player to provide a goal and an assist in the opening match of a tournament, after Thierry Henry.
Given the consistent performances that Payet has put in for the Hammers, you would expect him to continue to perform. The fact he still had the audacity to attempt to pull of his impressive array of tricks in such a high pressure situation shows that he isn’t phased by the prospect of playing in high profile matches.
It seems unlikely that the likes of Griezmann will continue to produce such a low level of performance for the remainder of the Euros, so France will probably get better as the tournament goes on. If he can produce in the way that he has for Atletico Madrid over the last two seasons, France will certainly become a formidable force going forward.
Payet though may be considered as the key man for this French team after his dazzling display on Friday night. You are unlikely to see as good an individual performance as the Marseille man produced against Romania, and if he can keep it up, he is certainly capable of taking France all the way.