Hosts can make up for em­bar­rass­ing loss to Al­ba­nia 12 month ago

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Adrian Back @aidy­back

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

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