France coach Didier Deschamps was more than just relieved after his team scored two late goals to beat a stubborn Albania team 2-0 on Wednesday and reach the second round of Euro 2016.
The hosts laboured in the first half and Deschamps sent on midfielder Paul Pogba and forward Antoine Griezmann in a tactical ploy that paid dividends in the Group A match.
“It shows the players are prepared to keep working right to the end,” Deschamps told reporters.
“We are not stuck with playing one formation. We had a much better balance in the second half and were more aggressive.”
Griezmann broke dogged Albanian resistance with a deft header in the final minute and Dimitri Payet grabbed the second goal deep into stoppage time after claiming a late winner in France’s opening victory over Romania last Friday.
“Payet is becoming more consistent and he has a lot of confidence,” Deschamps said.
“I am going to put him on ice to keep him fresh and maintain his performance levels.”
Man-of-the-match Payet relished his return to the home of his former club Olympique de Marseille.
“It was a special feeling to come back here and it was a very emotional moment to score a goal,” he said.
“I am very happy because we pushed hard in the second half and were rewarded. In the second half we tried to work down the flanks more and we got more crosses in. That’s why we were able to score.”
Deschamps said Albania, playing in their first major tournament, had been difficult opponents.
“They played with a lot of heart and spirit but in the end we found the solutions,” he said.
“My squad are great competitors and that is what I like to see. We were a little destabilised in the first half and we were not always working together. That is why I changed it.”
Deschamps admitted he would prefer not to keep relying on such late goals.
“I would like to break the deadlock a little earlier of course,” he said with a wry smile.