REDEMPTION TIME FOR GIROUD AND CO
Hosts can make up for embarrassing loss to Albania 12 month ago
It was just over one year ago that Albania secured a 1-0 win over France that led Didier Deschamps, which led to questions about the commitment of his players.
It was their third defeat in four matches and the France manager did not hold back. After a display devoid of passion or creativity Deschamps was scathing of his players.
Today, France head into a European Championships group game against Albania looking to win their 11th game in 12 matches, having scored 15 goals in the last five, and with two players who fared badly on that night at the Elbasan Arena now in top form.
Olivier Giroud may only be starting because of Karim Benzema’s absence, but the Arsenal striker has taken his chance. In his last eight games for France he has eight goals, and despite missing chances against Romania last Friday, he was once again on the scoresheet.
“My statistics speak for themselves. Several people have told me that I play better through adversity, but I don’t always want to have to be fighting against the mudslingers,” Giroud stated earlier in the week.
“I had a lot of pressure on me and there was a lot of expectation. But I’m continuing my run of form and that’s good for me.” In Albania the French fans had lambasted Giroud’s display as the striker’s touch deserted him. Now they will be desperate for his scoring run to continue. But perhaps the biggest turnaround in fortunes has been the remarkable rise of Dmitri Payet (inset). The midfielder feared that his international career was over after a tepid display against Albania 12 months ago, now he is the toast of the town after his incredible late winner handed France a 2-1 win in their Euro 2016 opener.
The 29-year-old has enjoyed a renaissance since joining West Ham last summer and is now one of the first names on Deschamps’ team sheet.
“It’s very important to have Payet in this kind of form,” said Deschamps “He’s vital for us.”
Payet was at the centre of everything that was good about France’s display against Romania. Now the pressure is on him to deliver once more as France look to book their place in the knockout stages of their home tournament.
The whole of France have their fingers crossed, even his teammates.
“I think he will get even better,” said defender Patrice Evra. “I hope so - I will pray for it.”
IN TOP FORM: Striker Olivier Giroud (main) and midfielder Dmitri Payet