- Dimitri Payet set to start as France embark on 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign
- Les Bleus start their Group A fixtures with a difficult-looking game in Belarus on Friday
- Payet has 27 caps and six goals for his country and finished as a runner-up at Euro 2016
Dimitri Payet is taking nothing for granted as France embark on their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign in Belarus on Tuesday.
Les Bleus begin their Group A challenge in Borisov on the back of a run to the final of UEFA Euro 2016, where they were edged out by Portugal in Paris. While that disappointment is still fresh in France’s memory, Payet knows they cannot afford to lick their wounds when they face a Belarus side ranked 70th in the world.
And, having beaten Italy 3-1 in a friendly in Bari last week, the Hammer of the Year is confident of getting the qualification off to a winning start.
“Obviously the Italy game was just a friendly match, but we know the importance of getting our qualification campaign underway with a good result,” said Payet, who is set to earn his 28th cap on Tuesday evening.
“We said it at the Euros, but there’s not much of a gap anymore between national football’s ‘big’ teams and the ‘small’ countries. I think that today, all international footballers are at a good level and we saw at the Euros that the gap between teams wasn’t what it was in the past, so every match is going to be difficult, and [on Tuesday] especially as we are playing away from home.”
Payet wants France to produce a similarly effective display in Borisov, where he believes the Belarussians will be highly motivated to score an upset over Didier Deschamps’ men.
That said, the Reunion-born playmaker remains confident that the visitors will get the job done and make a winning start at Borisov-Arena.
“We saw it against Italy, we started the match well and managed to score quite quickly, so I think that’s also the key to ensuring success in our match,” Payet told fff.fr.
“Obviously, we’ve gained some status following the Euros; that’s a reputation we need to live with and take on board – teams will be trying to study our game, will want to turn us over, to beat us, so we still in some way get great motivation from being ready to stand up to all that.
“After the Euros, the team and our fans want to be able to ride that wave, and we know that only happens through winning, so now the ball is in our court…”