default_eblnews.jpg

Hosts France woke up Saturday happy to have the first three points in the bag, but also with the knowledge that improvement is needed in all areas if they really want to lift the Euro 2016 trophy.

A final moment of genius from attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet, a long-range blast into the top left corner, gave Les Bleus an 89th-minute victory over stubborn Romania at the Stade de France on Friday night.

West Ham's Payet was the undisputed star, setting up most of France's other chances, including the corner that Olivier Giroud headed home for a 1-0 lead.

"Payet saves the party" said the front-page headline of the L'Equipe sports daily, while Sports Minister Patrick Kanner told Europe 1 radio that Payet's tears after the goal were "a message to the whole nation. He shows with his tears what France is capable of."

France's high-profile attack had its moments, but things may have looked different had not goalkeeper Hugo Lloris denied Bogdan Stancu early on from point-blank range. Stancu then missed again, completely unmarked, three minutes after the break.

No wonder Romania coach Anghel Iordanescu seemed slightly subdued, lamenting the missed chances, Payet's late winner and Giroud's goal, though it was not clear whether he was blaming goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu for a mistake, or the referee for an alleged unfair effort by Giroud.

"Had we scored, that would have changed the whole match," he said. "I can't and don't want to comment on the first goal. It hurts to lose in the 89th minute - but it was a fabulous strike from a wonderful player."

Iordanescu said it will be difficult to lift the players for the next game on Wednesday against Switzerland, while Didier Deschamps will need some fine-tuning for their game the same day against Albania.

The defence appeared shaky at times, with nervous Adil Rami and Laurent Koscielny not looking good on Stancu's first chance, and the most experienced of the back four, Patrice Evra, tripping Nicolae Stanciu for a penalty that gave Romania a 64th-minute equalizer from Stancu.

However, Deschamps also had to improvise at the back after Raphael Varane and Jeremy Mathieu had to quit injured, and Mamadou Sakho was suspended after a positive doping test at his club Liverpool.

Maybe Deschamps was easy on his back line then when he said that his team did "pretty well" defensively. But they also got plenty of help from Payet, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba, who could be found near their own penalty area more often than not in what was unanimously called "a timid" opening period.

Deschamps replaced Griezmann and Pogba after the equalizer with the fast and young Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial while retaining Payet because he could - and did - make the difference.

However, the coach will expect from the star Juventus midfielder Pogba as the transition game depended almost exclusively on Payet.

"Paul can play better. I won't be too hard on him. His potential is such that he can contribute more than he did tonight," Deschamps said of the 23-year-old who is allegedly the target of an offer in excess of 100 million euros (112 million dollars) from Real Madrid.

For now, Payet took all the glory.

"There was a lot of stress and pressure. If someone would have told me I wouldn't have believed it. It all come out with the goal," he said.

France now have the nation behind them, and the next games against Albania and Switzerland will be easier on the mental side after the tournament opener, which is always considered tricky.

"The result matters most. Not everything was perfect, far from it. But the victory is positive and its very important to begin with a victory," Deschamps said.

"It is was a bit like playing in a cup final. Romania had nothing to lose and we had everything to lose. The win at the death gives us greater confidence."

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.