Euro 2016 reflection: The goal, the sheer joy of it, cut through all the tension

Dimitri Payet’s stunning strike sparked the tournament into life after a tentative start

Dimitri Payet’s stunning strike against Romania lit the blue touch paper at Euro 2016. Photograph: Getty

Dimitri Payet’s stunning strike against Romania lit the blue touch paper at Euro 2016. Photograph: Getty

 

Floods, terror, strikes: that was the stage-setting against which France opened Euro 16 on a turbulent Friday night.

From the stadium, you could see the traffic on the motorway was gridlock: it was a vivid reminder that the host country was not standing still for this tournament.

The opening ceremony was upbeat and the fans cheered when David Guetta made his appearance but there was an unmistakable sense that Parisians were tentative about the next month.

Later, Didier Deschamps would say his team had started in a timid manner and over 90 minutes against Romania, they did little to advance their claim as favourites. A 1-1 scoreline seemed fair enough.

Then came Dimitri Payet’s fabulous light-sabre strike of a goal: from outside the box, straight and true and unstoppable. The French erupted.

The goal – the pure joy of it – cut through all the tension and foreboding. More than anything, it announced the fact that a football tournament had begun.

If France win on Sunday night, that moment will achieve lasting significance.

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