Didier Deschamps believes Dimitri Payet has the experience to cope with his new status as France’s national football icon.
Stars such as Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann were expected to carry the torch for the host nation at Euro 2016 but Payet has been very much to the fore during the opening two weeks.
He set up Olivier Giroud’s opener before dispatching a stunning late winner in the opening-night 2-1 win over Romania and also moved seamlessly from creator to goalscorer as Albania were downed 2-0 in Marseille.
Payet’s dazzling form for West Ham last season forced him into the plans and starting XI of a man with whom he has not always seen eye-to-eye and head coach Deschamps, speaking ahead of Sunday’s last-16 encounter with the Republic of Ireland, backed the 29-year-old to cut through the plaudits flowing his way.
“You give him a status, you take it away; you bring him down, you build him up,” the France boss told the assembled media.
“I’m very happy with what Dimitri is doing so far. He is making the difference, he’s enjoying it.
“He has been praised a lot from all quarters. He’s deserved it as well.
“He started working from the beginning of this week to try and maintain his performance levels.
“There is the opposite that can happen, when you give people these certain tags and they don’t necessarily live up to it, that can have consequences too.
“So I do talk to the players a great deal. But Dimitri is not a young player. He know what he has done in the past and he knows how he has got to this level. He does not want to give that up easily.”
One more unheralded member of Deschamps’ line-up is Arsenal centre-back Laurent Koscielny.
France are yet to be breached from open play in the tournament – only conceding via a penalty from Romania’s Bogdan Stancu – and Koscielny is starting to win over scepticism regarding his ability in his homeland.
“Whether you like Laurent or not, Laurent performs very well for his club. He has been in the French national side,” Deschamps added.
“He did have issues at one stage, where he was committing fouls and giving away penalties, he had that for his club side as well.
“But he is a very good defender. He is good in the challenge and very good at playing the ball out from defence.
“I wasn’t necessarily aware he was under-rated. He has always been a good player.”
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