Didier Deschamps hailed the impact of substitutes Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann after France’s last-gasp 2-0 victory over Albania.
France looked anything but Euro 2016 favourites as they laboured against a side ranked 42nd in the world, and were very nearly on the end of a major upset with Albania rattling a post.
But just as Albania looked set to register their first-ever point at an international tournament, Griezmann finally broke their resistance with less than a minute to go.
Pogba was dropped from the starting lineup but introduced at half-time and sparked a vastly improved display following a limp first half from the hosts.
“Pogba was more of a tactical decision,” France coach Deschamps told UEFA.com. “With that system I thought we needed two scrappers in the middle of the park.
“As for Griezmann, I’m managing him. Neither he nor Pogba is happy.
“Often players who come off the bench can make the difference. That was the case in the opening match and again here.”
Dimitri Payet put a flattering gloss on the scoreline when he blasted home his second of the tournament in stoppage time.
The West Ham midfielder, who until recently could not even make the France squad, is rapidly turning himself into the star of the tournament.
“Payet has become more consistent,” added Deschamps. “He’s always had ability and a lot of confidence. Now, in one-on-one situations and challenges, he’s always up for the fight.
“Albania played with a lot of heart and spirit. They defended well and have the ability to counter-attack.
“We might have scored earlier, we had a lot of chances. While it was goalless it was a good result for Albania. It’s always difficult against teams that keep it tight.
“Once we finally got going we let loose a bit — albeit slightly late in the day.”
Albania were a credit to their Italian coach Gianni De Biasi and almost stunned France by taking the lead early in the second half when Ledian Memushaj hit a post.
“My team resisted until the end, but we didn’t defend throughout. In the first half, and at the start of the second, we had the clearer chances,” said De Biasi.
“If you don’t score, you won’t achieve results. We performed good and held up to France.
“When I went into the dressing room heads were down, but I told the lads to pick themselves up and be proud of the way they played against a team with a lot of ability. We really caused problems for France.
“We can beat Romania to qualify. If we can score the goals we haven’t so far we can definitely get the points we need to get into the next round. We’ve shown we’re a proper team and play good football.”
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