Payet credits France's 'new level' of defence

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AFP
The tournament hosts finished the group stage unbeaten at the summit of Group A, and their two-time goalscorer has highlighted the side's all-round defensive effort

Dimitri Payet has hailed France's "new level" of defence as the Euro 2016 hosts moved into the round of 16 of the competition. 

France topped Group A with seven points after beating Romania and Albania, while playing out a scoreless draw with Switzerland. 

The Euro 2000 winners went all three games without conceding a goal from open play, while three of their four goals scored have come in the 89th minute or later. 

Payet - scorer of two of those goals - believes the side's all-round defensive effort has been the reason for their solid displays so far. 

"We've got a good defence and it's not just the back four. We've reached a new level in defence," the West Ham star said on Monday.

"These defensive efforts weigh on our freshness, but I'd rather not concede a goal and score one in the 90th minute than concede two or three and have to go and score three or four.

"Because there is not a big gap between the teams, it's hard to score three or more goals."

After topping the group, France will play the third-placed team from either Group C, D or E in Lyon on June 26.

Payet is looking forward to playing on a better surface to what France were exposed in their first three group games in Paris, Marseille and Lille.

"Because of that, we could not always play the way we wanted. But we know that in Lyon it will be better," the 29-year-old added.

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