NANTES: Dimitri Payet scored a brilliant last-minute free kick as European Championship host France beat Cameroon 3-2 in a friendly Monday.
Playing at the same stadium in Nantes where he began his career 11 years ago, the attacking midfielder angled a shot from wide on the right into the opposite corner, cancelling out striker Eric Choupo Moting’s 88th-minute equalizer for Cameroon.
Payet shined for West Ham in the Premier League this season, scoring several free kicks hit with astonishing bend, dip and velocity despite little or no run up.
Having also scored with a free kick on his international recall against Russia on March 29, he now appears certain to start against Romania on June 10 in the Euro 2016 opener.
Striker Olivier Giroud also strengthened his claim for a starting place with a well-taken volley late in the first half, putting France 2-1 up after France midfielder Blaise Matuidi’s scored in the 20th and striker Vincent Aboubakar replied two minutes later.
With Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema left out by coach Didier Deschamps Benzema remains under police investigation for his role in a sex-tape scandal the center-forward’s jersey is a choice between Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gignac.
France has another friendly against Scotland on Saturday, but Giroud’s fifth goal in the past six international games puts him in a commanding position.
Following early France pressure, Cameroon almost scored on a sharp counterattack when striker Karl Toko drew a smart save from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
France made Cameroon pay when Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman burst down the left and pulled the ball back to the penalty spot, where Matuidi finished with a crisp volley.
But Cameroon hit back when Aboubakar shrugged off center half Adil Rami making his first international appearance for three years and turned in Allan-Romeo Nyom’s cross from the right.
Giroud then grabbed his 15th international goal following good work from Juventus star Paul Pogba in the 41st.
Pogba showed great dexterity to skip past Eyong Enoh with a lovely change of direction and then delivered a perfect right-wing cross for Giroud, who volleyed in his fifth goal in the past three games for France and Arsenal.
Pogba almost made it 3-1 with a curling shot in the 62nd but goalkeeper Joseph Ondoa denied him with a leaping save.