Monday 16 July 2018

Pogba admits French must look to improve in time ahead

France 2 Australia 1

Paul Pogba of France celebrates scoring his side's second goal with Olivier Giroud. Photo: Getty Images
Paul Pogba of France celebrates scoring his side's second goal with Olivier Giroud. Photo: Getty Images

Jim White

Paul Pogba admitted France must improve after an uninspiring win that was significantly helped by the application of video assistance.

"We must not be too hard on ourselves, but it's true we must do better," Pogba said. "We hope to do better the next games. But if we win all like that, we'll take it."

Trent Sainsbury of Australia controls the ball under pressure from Kylian Mbappe of France. Photo: Getty Images
Trent Sainsbury of Australia controls the ball under pressure from Kylian Mbappe of France. Photo: Getty Images

Sporting a pair of John Lennon sunglasses, his hairstyle unusually sober, Pogba was in a businesslike frame of mind, straightforward and pragmatic.

"They were very determined and they defended well," he said of the Australians.

In a team of substantial youthful talent, Pogba remains the focal point. When he walked out after the game, the surge of reporters seeking his opinion was quite a sight.

France manager Didier Deschamps admitted there had been a "lack of pace and speed" about his team.

Benjamin Pavard of France. Photo: Getty Images
Benjamin Pavard of France. Photo: Getty Images

This is odd given the personnel: Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele are quick enough to challenge Usain Bolt in a straight sprint, but watching the French collectively labour their way to victory here, it would be unfair to place any of the blame on Pogba.

Touch

He was central to the build-up to both goals, freeing Antoine Griezmann with a superb pass to win the penalty, then galloping forward to concoct the winner, which has been ruled an own goal by Aziz Behich, who got the final touch to Pogba's shot.

"I will be honest," said Pogba when asked the identity of the scorer. "It's a goal for the French team."

Australia had equalised through Mile Jedinak's penalty.

Rather than blaming Pogba, France's problem seems to stem from the structure at the heart of the side. In a midfield three, the Manchester United man plays to the left of N'Golo Kante, with Corentin Tolisso on the right.

But with Kante so deep, there was no one in the middle supplying passes and getting up to support the front line. Which meant that instead of probing, France were plodding.

One Deschamps critic, alluding to the intervention of the VAR for Griezmann's penalty, described the ensuing victory as "Technology 1 Good Football 0".

Nonetheless, France negotiated a potential slip-up with three points. Pogba did not seem alarmed about the negativity the performance engendered in the French press. "Critics are always here. That's football," he said.

"I treat the criticism like I did when I was playing on the block as a kid. I never listen to it." (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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