Dimitri Payet has scored gorgeous goals in his day, but Friday’s rip (see video above) to beat Romania in the 89th minute of a tournament opener on home soil was a different breed of marker.
Subbed off for Moussa Sissoko minutes later, the 29-year-old West Ham wizard left the field with tears in his eyes.
Obviously they were joyful teardrops. Months ago, Payet was an afterthought in the minds of France coach Didier Deschamps, who had once pretty much derisively dismissed the midfielder as surplus to requirements.
On Friday, that was a thing of the past. It wasn’t Paul Pogba or Antoine Griezmann who netted the winner — they were subbed off, oddly enough — but Payet, who celebrated the win with his young son.
“It was a lot of stress, a lot of pressure, if someone had told me it would have gone like that I don’t think I would have believed them.
“It was that emotion that came out in the goal. When I saw the stadium tonight I knew I was going to have fun.”
Payet’s 12-goal season at West Ham was his best since netting 13 for Lille in 2012-13. That year at Lille got him a big move to Marseille, where he finished his time as the top assist man in France.
Deschamps had to recognize Payet’s season in England, and playing him is paying off. What a memorable opening day of the tournament. Let’s hope it brings us many more.