Euro 2016: France beat Romania 2-1 with late stunner from Dimitri Payet
France beat Romania 2-1 in the opening game of Euro 2016 at the Stade de France on Friday night. A second-half goal from Olivier Giroud was cancelled out by a Bogdan Stancu penalty before Dimitri Payet settled the tie with a sublime effort late in the game.
France: Lloris, Sagna, Koscielny, Rami, Evra, Kante, Matuidi, Pogba, Griezmann, Payet, Giroud
Romania: Tatarusanu, Sapunaru, Grigore, Chiriches, Rat, Hoban, Pintilii, Stanciu, Popa, Stancu, Andone
The last time France ever lost to Romania was 44 years ago in a friendly in Bucharest.
Didier Deschamps played a midfield trio of Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and N'Golo Kante and opted to start Dimitri Payet on the left in attack instead of Anthony Martial. Olivier Giroud led the line while Antoine Griezmann started out on the right.
France struggle to break down Romania
France were pumped up at kickoff with the majority of the crowd dressed in blue and roaring them on, but it was Romania who actually had the first real chance of the game. A corner kick in the fourth minute saw Bogdan Stancu get a shot on goal from point-blank range. If not for skipper Hugo Lloris who made a fine reaction save, Romania would have taken the lead to silence the Stade de France.
Les Bleus did have a chance 10 minutes into the game, though. Payet’s dancing feet saw him evade two defenders before floating in a cross into the box. Giroud was at the near post and tried to direct his header goalward but saw his effort go inches wide. Minutes later, a panicked defence made a mess of Sagna’s cross and allowed Griezmann to attempt a header that came off the post.
It was the midfield duo of Pogba and Payet, playing on the left, who were pulling the strings for France in the first half. Pogba’s energy and verve saw France pour forward and try to break down a Romanian side that was playing a high line while ensuring there was not much space between lines. Both he and Payet were looking to release Griezmann and Giroud to expose the high line – even beating the offside trap to find the Arsenal striker on one occasion before the linesman wrongly adjudged him to be offside.
But the best performer was arguably N'Golo Kante. The Leicester City midfielder, who rose to fame in the Premier League this season, was literally everywhere, winning the ball back from unlikely positions, covering the entire breadth of the pitch to do so.
However, Romania were able to hold on till the half-time whistle and survived a number of set-pieces, the most threatening being Giroud's header from a Payet corner kick that sailed just over the crossbar.
Second half sees three goals with Payet having final say
Just as in the first half, Romania had the first chance on goal in the second when Nicolae Stanciu bypassed the French defence with a lob that found his teammate Bogdan Stancu onside. The 28-year-old winger chested it down and took a shot that saw Lloris rooted to the spot but the Tottenham shot-stopper heaved a sigh of relief as the ball went wide of the far post.
France’s persistence finally paid off as they took the lead in the 58th minute through Olivier Giroud. Payet, who had been struggling to put in threatening crosses into the box in the first half, floated in a sumptuous one that saw goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu misjudge the flight of the ball, allowing Giroud to head it past him into the back of the net.
However, their lead barely lasted eight minutes when Patrice Evra, who had been struggling all game, tripped Stanciu in the box while he was ball-watching. Bogdan Stancu stepped up and slotted it home in the right bottom corner with Lloris wrong-footed, helplessly watching it rifle the back of the net.
Deschamps made a couple of substitutions after the equaliser. Kingsley Coman came on for Griezmann but the biggest surprise saw Pogba come off for Anthony Martial. The Juventus midfielder was having a good game, even attempting a fierce volley on goal that was saved.
But that is not to say the decision to bring on Martial was wrong. The Manchester United forward surged forward with purpose, using Giroud on one occasion for a one-two to set himself up for a shot at the edge of the box but his effort was poor and comfortably saved.
Then came the stunner an opening match deserved. With the ball at his feet outside the box, Dimitri Payet received the ball, turned and took a curling shot with his left foot that sailed into the top corner to lift the roof off the stadium.
In spite of three minutes added on time, Romania were unable to test the French defence and Lloris. Payet’s goal was enough to secure all three points for Les Bleus as they topped Group A.