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Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté give France hope for tougher tasks ahead

Hosts flickered and fizzed on the tournament’s opening night when the overwhelming feeling was of quiet relief

France are away, just about and not without a stutter and the odd clanging false step. On a steamy, occasionally fraught night at the Stade de France Euro 2016 kicked off with a gathering roar as the tournament favourites grappled their way to a 2-1 win against a gnarly and capable Romania.

For now Didier Deschamps will thank heaven, and indeed Nantes, Marseille, West Ham and the island of Réunion for Dmitri Payet, who smashed in a roof-lifting winning goal in the final knockings. So much for the best-laid plans. On a night when France needed a hero, they got one in the shape of a gorgeously talented, creative late-blooming 29-year-old, who worked part-time in a clothes shop while he was at Nantes and around the time this tournament was being divvied up was briefly struggling in and out of the Saint-Etienne team.

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