World Cup 2018 Day 8 - France and Pogba Are Improving

Weekly English Premier League Opinion - World Cup Edition Day 8

France vs. Peru

France weren’t great in their first game and yet got the win. Peru were entertaining, they met expectations but unfortunately lost. Pogba was poor in France’s opening encounter and the continued questions about his true capabilities were repeated.

This high tempo game started off excitedly. Nothing cagy about this one. It was a little fractious and that repetition of fouls interrupted the quality. However, after a while of the first half the game settled down and France started to find a little of that intent that has them as many people’s tournament favorites.

During Euro 2016 France started in similar fashion. Deschamps was never quite able to resolve the riddle of having so many possible components, the variations baffled him. France grew stronger in that international tournament as the formations changed, but ultimately it ended in failure despite a final appearance. It seems that a similar trend is starting to unfold at this Word Cup for France.

Two changes for France in terms of personnel and a change in their system of play. And one major transformation in terms of performance. In the defensive midfield the ineffective Tolisso came out and in the forward line Dembélé lost his start. The change in shape to a 4-2-3-1 saw Pogba drop deeper into midfield, further clouding the debate about his best position; that relocation of Pogba allowed Matuidi to play in the attacking midfield line. Giroud came in to offer a target in the #9 role allowing Griezmann to float underneath. Mbappé retaining his starting berth high and wide.

Once the game settled down France looked to impose their quality. However, the inventive and energetic Peru were good value for their part of the encounter, they were excellent to watch, but seemingly just short on the necessary excellence to make their commendable effort count.

The target of Giroud was helpful for France and the freedom of Griezmann that the tactical change allowed was working. Mbappé was sharp throughout the first half though he faded a little in the second half as the game plan seemed to change given the dynamics of the tournament.

But the biggest bonus from the first half was a return of Pogba, his first half contribution was excellent. He was dynamic in midfield, happy to do the negative aspects of the game out of possession, which he bossed. When in possession he was powerful, intelligent and played with a great variety. He lofted a lovely diagonal ball for Mbappé, he delicately laid in a perfectly weighted ball for a well-timed run from Giroud that indirectly ended in the goal; he powered in a shot from distance that was motivating. Pogba provided the all-round midfield performance, in all aspects of the game; he was excellent.

In the second half France played like a mature tournament team and managed their result through to the end, never risking too much, never allowing themselves to get overexposed. The second half performance was not so entertaining, but I enjoyed the maturity they demonstrated to secure the win. The job was done and nothing more than managing the game was required after the first half contributions.

France are improving. Pogba is improving.

By Jonny Carter - Chicago Fire

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