France head coach Didier Deschamps has hailed Dimitri Payet’s development into the Euro 2016 host nation’s unlikely hero.
The West Ham star blasted home the winner on the opening day against Romania, having set up Olivier Giroud for the opening goal, and he capped a 2-0 victory over Albania on matchday two with a composed finish from close range.
Payet, who enjoyed a superb debut campaign in the Premier League, has received huge plaudits from the French press in particular, while stars including Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann have been criticised for some of their contributions.
And Deschamps has praised Payet for embracing the demands of top-level football to prove the unlikely hero for his country.
“Everyone might have their own feelings but what I do is look at the squad. I want to put Payet on ice because he’s on top form, worked hard and been rewarded,” he said.
“You might have thought of other players to be a saviour in the past who didn’t, you might not have thought Payet would be. But the team mindset is important. It’s quite nice what’s surrounding Payet at the moment.
“He’s shown all season with West Ham some consistent performances. He’s been able to produce a lot more. He’s always had technical ability but he’s gained in confidence. He knows the top level is very demanding now.”
Deschamps also praised the performances of Leicester City midfielder N’Golo Kante, who has established himself as a first-team player despite having only made his debut in the friendly win over Netherlands in March.
“No, I’m not surprised by him,” said Deschamps. “He’s at an international level, that’s it. He also had a very good season. Ever since he joined up in March, he really has been showing what he can do. He has real physical attributes which mean he can go about his game.”
With France having secured qualification for the last 16 before their final group game with Switzerland on Sunday, there have been suggestions that Deschamps could rest a number of first-team favourites.
Though the former captain admits he could rotate his side, he remains determined to secure a win over Vladimir Petkovic’s team in order to finish top of Group A.
“I could rotate, all my players are available,” he said. “I’ll make some decisions. You’ll see tomorrow. I have to pick a team to make sure we secure top spot.
“I won’t try to envisage the last 16, I won’t pick players tomorrow thinking they’ll start badly so I can change them. I don’t think like that. The ones who start, it’s a privilege, but the ones off the bench have proven they can contribute. The team is the most important thing.
“We don’t go into the game with any permutations in mind. Tomorrow decides who finishes top and the aim is to maintain first place.”
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