Paul Giblin ST PETERSBURG Russia (Xinhua)
-- Earlier in this World Cup,
25-year-old French star Paul Pogba said that it could be the
last time he appeared in the finals stage. If that is the case,
he will be bowing out young but on a high. “I’ll be 29 in four
years; who knows if other young players will come through to
take my place?” Pogba said.
If he continues to
play like he has in his last two appearances for his country, it
is the younger players who should be worried.
“He’s a monster,”
said France coach Didier Deschamps following his team’s 1-0 win
over Belgium in Tuesday’s semifinal. Deschamps, nicknamed “the
water carrier” during his international career as a player,
knows a bit about playing in midfield.
“He has grown in the
team, he’s an expressive player and his performance only
increases his importance to the side,” Deschamps said.
It all shows how a
World Cup can turn a player’s fortunes around in a short period
of time. Pogba travelled to Russia after a difficult season with
Manchester United, where he often seemed at odds with manager
Jose Mourinho’s plans.
Perhaps because of
his club issues, he also struggled to make an impact in France’s
opening game in the World Cup, even prompting the call from the
French fans and media for him to be dropped, which is probably
what had him mulling over his international future.
But World Cups are
special events, with a possible seven games in a month
compressing development in a short space of time, and Pogba has
grown as France has progressed.
Of course it helps
that he has N’Golo Kante at his side. Pogba can play knowing the
Chelsea midfielder will be scurrying around filling any gaps
behind him, sweeping the ball up and feeding him with a simple
pass, allowing him to stride forward rather than being caught in
an attack-nor-defense no-man’s land in midfield.
An intelligent man,
who speaks English, French, Italian and Spanish (even though he
has never lived in Spain), Pogba dedicated Tuesday’s win to the
12 boys rescued from a cave in Thailand.
Even Mourinho was
impressed by his performance. “I think he had a very good game,”
he said on Russian TV. “He played with maturity when he had to
and when he had to hold position and keep control of the play he
did. He had freedom to keep the ball away from dangerous areas,
to keep the ball, to assist Griezmann for a great chance, he was
very mature,” said the Manchester United boss.
Pogba will be in the
side when France take the field for the World Cup final on
Sunday and it’s clear that in this tournament, it’s not how you
start, it’s how you finish.