The stellar individual performances of Dimitri Payet has restored PETER OKWOCHE’s faith in the French national team.
So, Euro 2016 has produced some spectacular moments of football – Gareth Bale’s thunderous free-kick against England, that spectacular overhead kick from 18 yards by Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri against Poland, and Belgium’s Eden Hazard literally running rings around the entire Hungarian team.
This is why we love this game… because the unexpected can happen at any time.
But, for me, there is not one moment that particularly stands out. Instead, there is one individual that has really caught my eye, and his name is Dimitri Payet.
This is a player that was dropped from France’s 2014 World Cup squad at the last minute, despite playing in all the qualifiers. That mistake was rectified for this tournament, and he has taken it by storm. In the group stages, it looked like every time a French player had the ball, they looked for Payet to pass it to and, anytime he got the ball, you knew you would see some magic.
In many ways Payet has carried France’s Euro 2016 campaign. He scored a spectacular goal in the dying minutes of their opener against Romania to give the hosts a 2-1 win.
His tears and the emotions that overwhelmed him as he was substituted showed this was a player with something to prove after the disappointment of the World Cup snub. He also scored late in France’s 2-0 victory over Albania, ensuring the team qualified into the next round.
His performances have led to high praise from fans and players alike.
None other than ex-France international, Zinedine Zidane, has described Payet as one of the most important players in Europe today.
The comments from Zidane – who is now the coach at Real Madrid – are well deserved and can also be interpreted as confirming interest in Payet by Los Blancos.
It all makes the $10-million West Ham paid Marseille to bring him to the Premier League look like chicken change.
Payet has restored my faith in the French team, who are now one of the favourites to win the tournament …
– Peter Okwoche presents Focus on Africa on BBC World News. Tune in Monday to Friday at 19.30 on DStv, channel 400.