Deschamps' show of courage can fire France to Euro glory, says Neil Humphreys
Displaying uncharacteristic boldness, Deschamps holds the key to hosts winning Euro 2016
GROUP A FRANCE 2
(Olivier Giroud 57, Dimitri Payet 89)
(Bogdan Stancu 65-pen)
A spiteful Eric Cantona famously called him The Water Carrier. Now he looks likes the pinball wizard.
France's greatest hope of winning Euro 2016 rests not with Paul Pogba or even Dimitri Payet's ballet boots, but with Didier Deschamps.
The host nation expected every Frenchman to do their duty. No one expected such a daredevil in the dugout.
If the narrow 2-1 victory over Romania yesterday morning (Singapore time) acted as a cathartic experience for a fragile, tentative country, the win liberated Les Bleus' coach.
The fairy-tale finish from Payet was less significant than the more common children's tale being played out on the touchline.
Deschamps was the Cowardly Lion who found his courage.
Payet's screamer was made possible by his wondrous instep and, more importantly, by the fact he was still on the pitch.
When Romania restored parity and tested France's creaking defence, the temptation to withdraw Payet must have been overwhelming.
He was the Man of the Match with an assist already to his name, but he was also the least fashionable name in the group and a relative newcomer.
Pogba and Antoine Griezmann are established brands, familiar to millions at home and popular names across the continent. But at the Stade de France, they were damaged goods, unable to influence proceedings.
Pogba had his moments - every magician finds his wand occasionally - but his role on the right too often cast him to the periphery, a genuine selection dilemma for Deschamps to solve before the Albania game on Thursday morning (Singapore time).
Griezmann was anonymous, perhaps suffering the after-effects of a long, exhausting season at Atletico Madrid, where taskmaster Diego Simeone believes the last man standing wins every contest.
But Griezmann is also a 25-year-old Champions League finalist in the form of his life and Pogba is a four-time Serie A winner and apparent heir to "the best player in the world" throne.
Even off-form, out of sorts and running on empty, their prodigious talent suggested a stay of execution. The names on their jerseys, surely, served as bulletproof vests.
Payet, the 29-year-old journeyman from an unfashionable club, presented an easy option. Apart from 1966, West Ham footballers are not renowned for their knack of winning international matches.
But Deschamps was unmoved. He focused on form rather than fanfare. He didn't believe the hype.
His bravery in taking off both Pogba and Griezmann, players with perhaps the highest profiles in the current French line-up, should not be underestimated.
It's up there with Spain removing both Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta in their majestic prime or the Germans taking off both Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos; a tactical move fraught with risk.
But Deschamps' calculated gamble paid off handsomely. More than Payet's goal, the coach's unexpected boldness must allay French concerns.
At the World Cup, the unavoidable conclusion to draw was that Deschamps succumbed to caution and the French played within themselves.
Attackers who were the equal of Germany, certainly from an artistic, athletic perspective, were slaves to their coach's 4-3-3 straitjacket.
France boasted an enviable structure, but displayed little in the way of freedom.
In the Euro 2016 opener, a game that was always going to be handicapped by host-nation jitters, France played a 4-3-3 only on paper.
Payet was everywhere, clearly handed a licence to thrill that was denied every Frenchman in Brazil.
For his goal, Payet started the move on the halfway line and finished it on the right. He started the game on the left.
He went where mood and momentum took him, with Pogba and Blaise Matuidi rotating frequently around the pivotal N'Golo Kante.
The French pack was shuffled endlessly, as if controlled by a nervous croupier, when in fact they were moved around to cover defensive weaknesses and Griezmann's tired performance.
Towards the end of the game, the French were an overlapping, flank-swopping, improvising collection of cavaliers, all in search of a winner.
A hero was born in Payet. But he was made in the dugout.
Payet won the game because Deschamps lost his timidity.
Upcoming games against Albania and Switzerland might test that resolve, and the knockout stages certainly will, but the hosts have reasons to be cheerful.
The Water Carrier is dead. Long live the keen risk-taker.