France entered Euro 2016 supposedly as an attacking side with defensive weaknesses, yet Les Bleus have confounded that image by conceding only one goal while scoring four in the group phase. (RESULTS | STANDINGS)
Dimitri Payet, who netted two of those goals, believes the defensive efforts made by their forwards can explain their difficulties in finding the back of the net.
“We’ve got a good defence and it’s not just the back four,” Payet told reporters at France’s training camp on Monday.
“We’ve reached a new level in defence.”
France had scored 13 goals and conceded six in their last four warm-up games, a sharp contrast with what they have been producing at Euro 2016, where they topped Group A with seven points from three matches.
“These defensive efforts weigh on our freshness but I’d rather not concede a goal and score one in the 90th minute rather than concede two or three and have to go and score three or four,” said Payet.
Although it may not be the greatest spectacle, it’s a much safer way to progress, according to the forward who netted his goals in the 89th minute and in added time.
“Because there is not a big gap between the teams, it’s hard to score three or more goals,” he said.
The state of the pitches at the Stade de France, Marseille’s Stade Velodrome and Lille’s Pierre Mauroy stadium did not exactly help France develop free-flowing football.
“Because of that we could not always play the way we wanted,” said Payet.
“But we know that in Lyon it will be better.”
France will play their last-16 game in Lyon on Sunday against a third-placed team.