France captain Hugo LIoris lifts the trophy as the jubilant players celebrate their World Cup victory. France beat Croatia 4-2 to win their second title, the first they won in 1998. REUTERS

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Hosts France start on a high

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Dimitri Payet wins it for Franca.GettyDimitri Payet wins it for Franca.GettyAll the emotion that was invested into this match, all the expectation for something spectacular, was repaid in multiples by Dimitri Payet. There are 66million people desperate for this France team to succeed but none could have expecting the first game of Euro 2016 to go quite like this.

In the final minute of normal time France were preparing to draw the curtains on a 1-1 draw, a disappointing performance and a poor point against Romania at the Stade de France. They had failed to live up to the billing as favourites, the hopes as hosts and even the ludicrous glitz of the opening ceremony. It would have been a night for questions, nerves and regret.

And then Payet picked up the ball 20 yards from goal and decided he did not want to go home feeling like that. So with his first touch he shifted the ball inside with his right, and with his second he smacked it into the top corner with his left. If there are many better goals or better moments than this over this next month it will be a very special tournament. Once the celebrations had died down Payet was substituted by Didier Deschamps, in floods of tears and unable to continue.

Payet, of course, had been the eleventh member of Deschampsí team to be selected, having just beaten Anthony Martial to a place in the starting eleven. This goal, and his whole performance, were a vindication of that decision but also of Payetís special status as a player who has the skill and audacity to change games at will. In one sense he has been doing this all season, brilliant goals at crucial moments for West Ham United. But this was the biggest game of his career and he produced something for which he will always be remembered.

But if Payet deserved this win, a win that gives France a real foothold in Group A, then Deschamps, and his team-mates, probably did not. For far too much of this evening France looked like a team who were struggling under the weight of their twin-burdens of hosts and favourites. This was always going to be an emotional night and when Didier Deschamps said beforehand that he wanted his players to use the emotion, but also distance themselves from it, it sounded like a very difficult task.

So it seemed to prove for France who looked so overcome by emotion at the start of the game that they completely failed to switch on. Romania did not offer very much going forward, for all their effort, and yet they had two brilliant chances to score, one at the start of each half. Just three minutes in France ought to have been punished for a collective failure to concentrate.

Nicolae Stanciu whipped in a corner, Florin Andone flicked it on at the near post and Bogdan Stancu looked surprised when the ball fell to him at the far post. From three yards out he could only shoot straight at Hugo Lloris, sat on the floor, wasting their best chance of the whole night.

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