An emotional Dimitri Payet was taken aback by his exploits in Friday’s successful Euro 2016 opener as his stunning late strike lifted France to a dramatic 2-1 win over Romania.
It was like Payet opened up a release valve and eased the stress and pressure amid the hype of an entire nation when he produced a trademark goal from outside the penalty area to give hosts France the perfect start in Group A at the Stade de France.
A tearful Payet was overcome with emotion as he celebrated the 89th-minute winner and after his dazzling display in Paris, the West Ham star said: “There was stress and pressure. If someone told me that it went like that tonight, I wouldn’t have believed it.
“That emotion came out in the goal.”
Romania were determined to spoil the party in the French capital, with the visitors frustrating France throughout the night.
Following a goalless opening 45 minutes, Bogdan Stancu’s penalty cancelled out Olivier Giroud’s 57th-minute opener.
But just as Romania thought they had earned a point, Payet curled a brilliant left-footed effort into the top corner of the net, sparking joyous celebrations.
“We knew we were a bit timid in the first quarter of an hour. We came up against a side who played very well,” he said.
“When we scored, they levelled, but throughout the preparation we showed we could go out and win the game. Now we’re able to rest and work calmly for the next game.”
Asked if winning in such a manner was the best start possible, Payet added: “I thought about that. Had we won by two or three might have misled us. That shows there’s going to be no easy matches.
“The crowd have high expectations for us and the opposition are waiting for us, and that was the best demonstration of that possible tonight.”