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Last-gasp France have 'winning mentality' to go far in Euros

MARSEILLE -- Once again, Les Bleus didn't give up. Once again, they showed incredible mental strength and character. Once again they won the game in the dying seconds, this time against Albania 2-0, like they did away in the Netherlands back in March in a friendly (3-2), in Nantes against Cameroon a bit more than two weeks ago (3-2) and against Romania on Friday (2-1) for the opening match of Euro 2016.

Anthony Martial, Dimitri Payet (twice) and Antoine Griezmann all have one thing in common, that they delivered last-minute goals to bring joy to the French supporters. This France team have something that no other French team has had in a long time: the resilience, the winning mentality, the never-surrender spirit.

On Wednesday, the hero was Griezmann. It could have been any other, five days after Payet's antics against Romania, but the script was written for him. Benched by Didier Deschamps without really knowing why, the Atletico Madrid star came on with 23 minutes to go and won it for France. His header, on an Adil Rami's cross (yes you read that right), made the Stade Velodrome in Marseille come alive.

Before that, it looked like France had missed the chance of winning it. But Griezmann delivered the goods and Les Bleus proved once again that they are the masters of suspense, the bosses of the money time.

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"We have that in us now. We never give up, we want to win all the time and we give everything for that. We have a winning mentality. It comes from the spirit of the team, from what the manager is teaching us every day," Andre-Pierre Gignac explained after the match.

For Olivier Giroud, one of the reasons why France are now so good at the death is because many of their players play in England.

"Teams in England never give up. They will always push until the end, believing that a goal could still come," the Arsenal striker said. "We did the same tonight [Wednesday]. We never stop believing that we would win this match and we did."

Another factor is Deschamps, of course. The France head coach is a born winner, who then cultivated even more his winning mentality while playing for Juventus in Italy. The Italians taught him to hate losing so much that he would do anything to win. He has transmitted that quality to his current players in the national team too. Deschamps is not just a winner, he is also a lucky charm. Almost everything he tried as a player would work. He won everything you could win. He led his teams like Napoleon led his French armies, with character, guts, control and talent.

Didier Deschamps
Didier Deschamps' France became the first team to qualify for the next round after a 2-0 win over Albania.

Against Albania, he stood up in front of his bench until the last minute, stirring up his players, encouraging them, pushing them, demanding that they played higher and higher on the pitch to force a goal. So they did. Once again, they had not been great throughout the 90 minutes. Deschamps changed the formation, dropped Pogba and Griezmann on the bench and it didn't work. So he went back to his old 4-3-3, Pogba came on at half-time, Griezmann a bit later and things got better.

Some would say that Les Bleus were lucky.

"It is not down to luck," said Hugo Lloris after the game. "We forced destiny by our attitude and our dedication and motivation. That's why we don't give up. We showed a lot of maturity tonight."

Lloris was happy, despite the difficulties in this match like against Romania. The French are the first team assured to go through to the next round. They did the job and have six points after two matches in their group, even despite playing badly.

It is not really relaxing to be a French football fan at the moment though. Instead of a comfortable win by a two or three-goal margin, you end up with stressful evenings wondering when the goal will come. On the other hand, the French could also win this Euro by scoring at the 89th minute each match and no one would complain about that.

Julien Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien. Follow him on Twitter: @LaurensJulien.

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