Dimitri Payet’s stunner rescues France’s welcome party against Romania

The script had called for France to run up the curtain on their European Championship with a performance of derring-do, to offer encouragement to a nation that surely needed it. It had been a testing build-up, with the national state of emergency lending an understandable edginess. Elsewhere, there have been the strikes and the floods; the race-rows and the scandals. The football was supposed to bring succour.

It did so, in the end, but only after a performance that was undercut by anxiety and one which did little to embellish France’s status as the tournament favourites. Yet, when the decisive moment came, it was one to quicken the pulses and provide this championship with its touchstone.

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