France coach Didier Deschamps has praised Paul Pogba for his ability to escape the pressure put on him by the media and be a key figure in Les Bleus’ World Cup success in Russia.
France beat Croatia 4-2 in Moscow last weekend to secure their second world title and Pogba was among the scorers at the Luzhniki Stadium. Speaking to L’Equipe, Deschamps was particularly impressed by the Manchester United midfielder’s ability to remain calm in the face of intense scrutiny from the press.
“Paul was relaxed,” Deschamps said. “He knew why he was there. Paul managed to free himself from the burden created by the press.”
If Pogba was an integral figure in France’s success, so was Kylian Mbappe, and Deschamps marvelled at the Paris Saint-Germain star’s maturity despite his tender age.
“I was not surprised,” Deschamps admitted. “To be so crucial and effective at just 19, though, that is extraordinary. Kylian is also very intelligent. One of the best things he said was: ‘I cannot be the spokesman for this team.’
“Despite his immense quality on the pitch, he knew that he did not have the experience to deal with the situation that others do.”
Deschamps also talked up defender Raphael Varane’s Ballon d’Or chances after a string of excellent performances in Russia but thinks that Mbappe or Pogba could also be contenders for the gong later this year.
“Of course, Raphael deserves it,” Deschamps said. “Will he win it? He is a defender… Generally speaking, it goes to more attacking players. With Kylian, he has time, but look at what he has already achieved! Do not forget Paul either — just do not ask me to choose between them!”
N’Golo Kante was another of France’s key men in Russia but struggled against Croatia in the final — much to Deschamps’ surprise.
“I do not know what happened with N’Golo in the final,” the World Cup winning coach and former captain said. “It was horrible for him. N’Golo is a real ray of sunshine — a true joy. When he came off, I asked him if he was OK. His quiet reply was: ‘No, no, do not worry — I am fine, coach.’ Everybody loves N’Golo — he is a little phenomenon.”
Deschamps also hit out at critics who were unimpressed by the manner of France’s World Cup success, pointing out that his side almost doubled Spain’s tally when they were champions.
“People are talking about us a defensive team? Oi! We scored 14 goals, including four in the final, as well as 11 in the knockout phase,” Deschamps said. “Back in 2010, Spain scored just eight! “Truth is that France were better than everybody else.”