Euro 2016: Payet gets France party started with victory over Romania

Dimitri Payet

West Ham midfielder, Dimitri Payet, scored once and assisted another to help host, France overcome Romania 2-1 in the 2016 European Championship opener on Friday.

Payet, now hitting his career peak at 29, was playing for his country at a major tournament for the first time.

“There was a lot of stress, a lot of pressure,” said Payet, who came off in injury time to a standing ovation.

“If someone had told me it would have gone like, that I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Payet wasn’t even in the squad on November 13 when the Stade de France was hit by extremists during a friendly match against Germany — part of devastating attacks across Paris that are at the heart of national emotions for Euro 2016.

But his stunning season in England with West Ham persuaded coach Didier Deschamps to bring him back into the team, and France was rewarded with a display of artistry.

Against Romania, Payet capped an outstanding display by curling in an 89th- minute shot with his left foot from outside the penalty area to restore France’s earlier lead.

“He’s capable of doing extraordinary things,” Deschamps said. “It was a superb goal.”

Riding its luck from wasteful Romanian finishing, France went ahead in the 58th when Olivier Giroud headed in Payet’s cross from the right.

The lead lasted only seven minutes. Romania forward Bogdan Stancu slotted in from the penalty spot after a foul by Patrice Evra.

While many expect France midfielder Paul Pogba to shine at Euro 2016, Payet was France’s main creative force.