World Cup 2018 Day 3 - Is Pogba World Class?

Weekly English Premier League Opinion - World Cup Edition Day 3

France vs. Australia

I was expecting better than that. France were, and still are, my predicted winners of this World Cup 2018, but based on that performance my prediction looks in jeopardy.

The performance of Paul Pogba was nothing like world class. There are many exceptional talents playing at this tournament, its tough to stand out. But yet again Pogba has failed to convince that he is part of the world class conversation. Ronaldo scores a hat-trick to drag his team to relative success, and we’ll see a few more of those heroic performances from a bunch of players later through this tournament, when will one of those players be Pogba?

“He scored the wining goal in a 2-1-win, what more do you want?”

Much more.

I’m not even convinced it was his goal, it looked more like a very unfortunate deflection off the Australian defender than a subtle floated chip from a player at the top of his form. His flash of glory doesn’t even belong to him.

There were slim moments of class, but not many. I saw Pogba play an excellently weighted through ball into an intelligent Mbappé run in the first half, just a little too straight with the pass this time. And his effort, at least, to join into what will prove to be a match winning goal was commendable. But outside of that, very little. Nothing world class that’s for sure.

And here is the frustration. All the excuses over the past two rather indifferent club seasons at Manchester United were blamed on José; the tactics were too negative, Pogba’s role within the team is too defensive, he’s not being deployed to his strengths and he’s not being played in the same way as he was with Juventus.

Now all those Pogba excuses are gone. This is his beloved France, not the club team. The national team was where Pogba was supposed to be ’happy’, there was nothing happy about his performance today. The team is supposed to be built around Pogba and play to his strengths, I didn’t see that today at all.

The midfield balance looked a little odd, way too pragmatic for such a need-to-win opening game. Kanté is a given to start, and that security allows the fullbacks to roam so aggressively high. But Tolisso offered up little attacking support, but in all honesty that should have played into Pogba’s strength, allowing more space in attacking midfield not crowded by the previous Payet or Griezmann when he’s not playing through the central striker #9. But we didn’t see Pogba take advantage of that space or see him take advantage of that responsibility. It was Manchester-United-Pogba all over again. This time though, it’s in a France jersey.

It seems that these World Cup 2018 national teams are overloading the ‘workhorse’ midfielder in exchange for the creative talent. Previously the deeper-lying central midfield was the creative force; Xabi Alonso & Toni Kroos come to mind. But it’s an unpleasant tactical amendment from what I’m seeing so far. I’m watching the first half of Argentina play Iceland and the midfield balance is frustrating. I’m ferociously no supporter of Mascherano; never have been, just don’t see how a ubiquitous fouler with no range of passing can be your ‘pivot’. Mascherano has had more touches than Messi, as far as I can see. I don’t think this same attitude helped France. I’ll also throw out a comment that Brazil might be over pragmatic in their midfield, that’s a comment for later, though. But France were too reserved. Maybe tournament football is to blame, don’t lose your first game…France didn’t. Argentina didn’t lose either. But my expectation of France is as winners, not survivors.

Back to Pogba. I’m not the biggest fan of celebrity players overloading social media with self-promotion, I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary players being more interested in commercial endorsements or selfie-obsessed hair styles, no matter what the financial reward. Though this is contemporary football. But what doesn’t change, what will never change, is that you have to produce on the field. That is where you will ultimately be judged.

Pogba…Too much show, not enough business.

By Jonny Carter - Chicago Fire

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