Pogba holds Euros key for France

by

June 10, 2016
Pogba

PARIS (AP):

French fans pinning their hopes on Paul Pogba being the talismanic midfielder leading them to European Championship glory on home soil may have to bank on someone else.

Among the world's best players and valued at €100 million, Pogba shines for Juventus with driving runs and spectacular goals, but rarely plays with such panache for France because coach Didier Deschamps prefers him in a far more disciplined role.

"People expect too much from Paul," Deschamps said. "People can't accept any middle ground ... but he's not going to score three goals every game." Deschamps said, putting it bluntly.

The paradox between Pogba's dynamic performances for Juve 20 goals in the past two seasons and his less expansive play for France is as striking as his inventive, razor-crafted haircuts.

His last goal for France was two years ago, and his return of five in 31 matches is substandard for a vastly talented, incredibly athletic player who is strong in the air and has a superb long shot.

VICTORIOUS SIDES

Much of that is down to Deschamps, the relentlessly hard-working midfield captain in France's victorious World Cup and Euro sides of '98 and 2000.

"(Pogba's) technical ability is well above average," Deschamps said. "But he's not here to bring the crowd to their feet every time he's on the ball."

Such a statement will hardly have French fans salivating ahead of Friday's opening game against Romania, but Deschamps wants Pogba to play more safely.

When France beat Cameroon 3-2 in a recent friendly, Pogba was criticised for pushing up too much and leaving France's defence exposed. He played far better in last weekend's 3-0 win against Scotland, hitting the post with a free kick, but lacklustre Scotland offered no threat.

France's other Group A opponents at Euro 2016 are Albania and Switzerland, meaning Pogba faces little competition in midfield until the knockout stages.

Better sides such as Germany and Spain are lethal on the break when teams lose possession, meaning that Pogba's urge to push up and dribble his way out of trouble could prove problematic.

The overriding message is that Pogba has to trade some of his skill for the sake of team balance an even more pressing necessity given France's weakened defence.

Without centre backs Raphael Varane, Kurt Zouma, Jeremy Mathieu and Mamadou Sakho, Deschamps is massively short on defensive cover.

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