France coach Didier Deschamps salutes Paul Pogba as he admits his side were lucky to beat Australia
France coach Didier Deschamps saluted the contributed of his midfield general Paul Pogba, as his late goal handed his side a fortunate victory in their World Cup opener against Australia.
Pogba claimed France’s late winner despite his effort taking a huge deflection off Australia defender Aziz Behich, with critics quick to single out the Manchester United midfielder for criticism amid a lacklustre France performance.
“Pogba was very good today,” declared Deschamps. “He had a lot of freedom on the pitch and he also has a defensive role to play. He is better off in a midfield three rather than a two, we can all see that and I felt he did well.
“I am happy with what he did and to score the goal in the final minutes will be good for him.”
BBC TV pundit Mark Lawrenson was among those offering an alternative view of Pogba’s display against Australia as he described the United midfielder as ‘an enigma’ who ‘needs to concentrate on football and not his latest haircut’.
As ever, Pogba’s performance divided opinion, as did the use of the VAR system in France’s win, with the match officials awarding a second half penalty to Deschamps’s side in controversial fashion.
“The grey area that comes with VAR is a problem for me,” declared the Brighton stopper. “If there is not conclusive proof that the referee has made a mistake, we should allow the game to play out.
“When a player makes a mistake, we can’t go back and change it, but referees can change their mind even when they don’t make an obvious mistake now. We are not here to make excuses, but it is tough to take.”
Australia coach Bert van Marwijk bemoaned his side’s misfortune in Kazan, as he suggested his side did enough to claim a point on a day when he felt his tactics had stunted the ambition of France.
“What can you do when you have a decision on a penalty that is not certain and then a lucky goal at the end,” stated the Dutch tactician.
“I am proud and disappointed. I think we played a great game. I cannot blame any of my players I can only give them compliments.
“No one expected we will give a team like France so many problems. There were many situations in which they did not know what to do anymore. At least we deserved a draw.
“The referee and the assistants on the pitch were close to the penalty incident and said go on, no penalty. Then you have to ask why they want to look at the replay.”
Deschamps accepted his side needed to improve on their opening performance at the World Cup, as he looked to highlight the positives amid the negativity surrounding his team.
“We were not quick enough going forward and this favoured Australia. We must do better than that. We can and we will,” declared the France boss.
“The positive is we won. During the last four World Cups, only once have France won the first match, so we have to accept that we have been given a gift.
“People are using extreme words to say how bad this performance was, but it is not so bad to win your first match at the World Cup.”