Football

Deschamps wants more from Pogba

France midfielder silences critics with Man-of-the-Match display

ROUND OF 16

FRANCE 2

(Paul Pogba 79, Joseph Yobo 90+2-og)


NIGERIA 0

Paul Pogba's goalscoring display in France's 2-0 win over Nigeria this morning (Singapore time) showcased how talented the young midfielder is, and coach Didier Deschamps wants to see those skills on a more regular basis.

The Juventus star headed France in front in the 79th minute of their last 16 clash at the Brasilia National Stadium to cap a Man-of-the-Match display after reacting well to being dropped earlier in the tournament.

The 21-year-old had been fortunate to escape a red card in the 3-0 opening Group E win over Honduras and subsequently lost his place in the side for the 5-2 demolition of Switzerland.

He returned against Ecuador in the last group game, but another indifferent performance put his starting place in jeopardy against the Nigerians.

Deschamps, though, kept faith and was duly rewarded as Pogba continued to drive forward from midfield this morning, almost scoring a brilliant volley in the first half before bagging the crucial opener in the second.

"He showed his potential today," Deschamps said after the match.

"Maybe he played a bit more simply today and all the credit is due to him.

"I did not doubt his ability and he played a remarkable match. I hope he can do it on a regular basis now."

Pogba hailed his France teammates instead of dwelling on his own performance.

"I was Man of the Match today, but I wish I could share it with everybody because, thanks to everybody, we won this game and I was able to win this award," said Pogba, who has played 264 minutes and averages 86 passes per game with an accuracy of 83 per cent.

The former Manchester United midfielder described the goal as the finest moment of his career.

"I don't have words for it. I know that there is a whole country behind us, they support us," Pogba said.

"The goal freed us up. I'm happy for the team and the whole of France.

"It's the best feeling of my career, scoring for my country. Moreover, in such an important game, it's one of the best moments of my life. It was a dream to score at a World Cup."

Pogba's talent has never been in question. He oozes class and is the complete box-to-box midfielder, compared routinely with former France great Patrick Vieira.

But, while Vieira was able to churn out an endless run of great displays, the same can't be said of Pogba - yet.

Fans of Juventus may disagree, though, as he has quickly forced himself into the starting line-up of the Italian champions after leaving Man United in 2012. That transfer away from England saw the Frenchman described as "the one Sir Alex Ferguson should not have let go".

The move to Italy also brought questions, with Pogba outspoken in his criticism of Ferguson for not giving him a starting berth and the chance to shine.

Firing out criticism often draws it in return and the young midfielder has seen plenty, especially when pundits believe he isn't performing at the level he should.

"He is young. I think it's normal he gets criticised, it's part of a top player's life," Deschamps said.

"I think it will toughen him up a bit."

After an all-action display this morning, few would say he is not tough enough.

- Reuters.

World Cup