Euro 2016: Payet beauty gets French party underway
A Dimitri Payet stunner got hosts France off to a winning start to Euro 2016 on Saturday morning.
But their 2-1 win over Romania at the Stade de France came tougher than expected.
Highly fancied to win the tournament for third time in their history, France were continually frustrated by a Romanian side which conceded just two goals in 10 qualifying games.
They finally broke the deadlock in the 57th minute, via the man the home nation's supporters love to hate: Olivier Giroud.
His headed goal, however, sparked the visitors into life.
Eight minutes later, Romania were level, thanks to a naive challenge by Patrice Evra in the penalty area on Bogdan Stancu, who picked himself up to convert from the spot.
Just when it seemed Romania would take an shock point off the French, Payet stepped up with a brilliant strike.
From just outside the penalty, and with space at a premium, the West Ham playmaker whipped a shot into the top corner to seal victory in dramatic fashion.
It proved to be an emotional moment for the 29-year-old, who only recently seemed resigned to being left out of France's 2016 squad, after a prolonged omission from Didier Deschamps' side.
But his consistently superb performances in the English Premier League eventually proved too much for the coach to ignore.
As the tears flowed down Payet's cheeks in full view of an adoring crowd, an entire nation could feel his joy.
The man once continually overlooked has turned into an instant hero.
Whether or not France fulfil their potential in this tournament, Payet could have a huge say.
What a turnaround this is.
For match analysis from TNP's team of writers, get the print edition of The New Paper on Sunday (Jun 12)