Passionate Payet eyes Albania victory

  • Dimitri Payet's France continue Euro 2016 by facing Albania in Marseille on Wednesday
  • The West Ham United star opened the tournament with a sensational goal against Romania
  • Payet puts his fine form down to a summer 2015 move to the English Premier League
Dimitri Payet has put his fine start to Euro 2016 down to his move to England, the Premier League and West Ham United a year ago.

The France star was in sensational form in Les Bleus’ opening-game win over Romania in Paris, setting up his country’s opener before scoring a sensational late winner.

Payet’s performance left him in tears, but the Hammers’ attacking midfielder put his emotional reaction down to the fact he simply did not believe he would be present at the tournament prior to his wonderful debut campaign in Claret and Blue.

“Many players in the French squad play in the Premier League, or have played in the Premier League, so I knew about the level,” he said, speaking ahead of Wednesday evening’s second Group A fixture with Albania in Marseille.

“Patrice Evra told me that playing in England would take my game to a new level — and he was right. It is the most ­competitive league in the world — every game you have to fight for. There is no doubt I have become a better player there.”
It is the most ­competitive league in the world — every game you have to fight for. There is no doubt I have become a better player there
Payet’s reaction to scoring or winning games for West Ham has always been eye-catching, but his tears at the Stade de France made headlines throughout the football world.

“It was pure emotion that people saw from me the other night,” he explained.

“There were times when I didn’t think I would even be at the European Championship, so to be walking off the field, having scored the winning goal in front of our home fans, just got too much for me. The emotion all came pouring out.”

Having overcome Romania thanks to Payet’s late winner, France can all but reach the quarter-finals with victory over outsiders Albania – beaten 1-0 by Switzerland in their opening match on Saturday.

While Didier Deschamps’ men will be overwhelming favourites, the West Ham star is not expecting an easy evening they continue their quest for a third-straight home major tournament success.

“I don’t think we were at our best against Romania, but we got the job done which was the most important thing,” said the Reunion-born star.

“Next up is Albania, and I am expecting another tough game. They fought hard against Switzerland, and I expect them to fight hard against us.

“I think there is always an added incentive to play well against the host nation. There is pressure on France, but we are OK with that. We have an excellent team and are playing at home, so of course there will be pressure on us, but we expected that.

“Our aim is the same as the fans’, and that is to win the tournament.”