LONDON – Paul Pogba is in danger of losing his starting place at the World Cup. French supporters have turned on the midfielder and manager Didier Deschamps is still to decide whether he can be trusted to perform on a consistent basis.
Pogba started in Friday’s 3-1 win over Italy but failed to influence the game, even though he played in his preferred free role in a three-man midfield. Flanked by the energy of N’Golo Kante and Corentin Tolisso, the Manchester United star had, in theory, the ideal platform to shine.
Yet his passing was awry and one shot from distance nearly went out for a throw-in. When he was replaced by Steven N’Zonzi on 87 minutes, Pogba was jeered and whistled by his own crowd. Deschamps insisted Pogba retains his confidence but he also made a point of highlighting his ‘many options’ in midfield.
Pogba had been dropped by Deschamps for the friendly defeat by Colombia in March, while Jose Mourinho left the midfielder out of several key Manchester United fixtures in the spring. There are also concerns over his United future, with Italian newspapers last week suggesting his agent Mino Raiola is plotting a transfer back to Juventus.
Former France defender Frank Leboeuf wants Tolisso to start ahead of Pogba, while his fellow World Cup winning team-mate Bixente Lizarazu said Pogba is “not doing enough” to justify his place.
A poll by magazine France Football asked fans whether Pogba should start. Among 7,000 respondents, 73 per cent said he shouldn’t. In newspaper L’Equipe, Pogba’s 4/10 was the lowest mark against Italy, while Le Parisien gave him 3.5/10. With only one more friendly, against the USA on Saturday, before France’s opener against Australia, Pogba is running out of chances to beat the doubters.