France’s Euro 2020 progress is led by the Man United star
“Messi or not Messi, I don’t give a shit. I’m not going home tonight. “
Imagine the scene: France will play Argentina in the round of 16 of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It’s June 30th and Paul Pogba decided to speak louder than he had ever done before. In the Kazaner Arena dressing room, the Manchester United midfielder upset his team and shouted encouraging words before talking about Lionel Messi. The rest, of course, is history for Les Bleus, who won the competition, and for Pogba, whose status really changed that day.
Before this competition, Pogba was one of the most important players in France, but from that day on he became one of the leaders. He retained that role for the remainder of that World Cup and during the wild celebrations as they celebrated their second victory; Since then, his leadership has grown stronger. At Euro 2020, with a Group F game against Portugal coming up – stream LIVE on Wednesday 3pm ET, ESPN + (USA) – he is showing that he is now “Pogboss”, the leader of this French team.
– Euro 2020 on ESPN: stream live games and replays (USA only)
– European Soccer Pick ‘Em: Compete against each other for $ 10,000
– Euro 2020 bracket and schedule
He is no longer just the “ambianceur” as he was in his early years on an international level; Back then, his job was to choose the music, tell jokes and make fun of his teammates. It was loud and positive, always brought a party atmosphere to the national team camps and even went so far as to arrange the winning chants in the locker room after a victory. Nowadays he’s so much more.
Nowadays, for example, Pogba is the one who stepped in at the last minute to defuse the incident between Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud – the latter was frustrated because he didn’t have good scoring chances against Bulgaria in a pre-European friendly match, angering the PSG striker . (It worked too; when asked about the tension in the team, Pogba calmly replied, “No, the only tension is in the back and legs … maybe what I was saying was conveyed incorrectly.”)
Pogba has adapted seamlessly to be one of the leading players in this star-studded French squad and he has the skills to take them to Euro glory after narrowly failing in 2016
Pogba is the one Didier Deschamps sends to speak to the players individually, whether it be to boost their confidence, correct something or discuss tactics, as he recently did with Mbappe about his defensive duties. He’s also the player closest to defender Clement Lenglet as the team celebrated his birthday last week, and led the farewell to Ousmane Dembele after a hamstring injury excluded him from the rest of the Euro.
“I like to speak one-on-one with the boys. I like to say to the boys, ‘How are you feeling? If you think we shouldn’t do this, please let me know …’ [my teammates] feel good so that we can be better on the pitch. I want to get the best out of everyone, “said Pogba in a recent interview with the French newspaper L’Equipe.
|France – Q||2||1||1||0||+1||4th|
|Top two and top four thirds qualify|
In any team, regardless of level, it is always the players and staff who give such leadership to a member of the team. There was never a doubt that Pogba would be recognized as a leader by the entire team, but he still had to accept that label and be good at it, both on and off the pitch.
“You saw how he developed in this role, game after game, month after month, but it was always tough,” says a source from the French camp ESPN. “Pogba has always been a captain, of all ages. Even at Manchester United he wore the armband under José Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It goes without saying that he should be a leader and also an excellent one.”
Today he talks more than ever: in the hotel, in the locker room, on the pitch, collectively, individually, about tactics, about life, about the NBA, about everything. Depending on the context, he makes sure to find the right words that motivate or calm down.
Before the first Group F game against Germany, he urged his teammates to send a message to the rest of the competition with a big win. (They responded with a 1-0 win.) When the French were briefly stunned by Attila Fiola’s goal in the Budapest heat just before the break on Saturday, he made sure everyone remained calm and serene.
Overall, France were disappointing against Hungary, but Pogba’s words helped the French focus on their way back into the game. “Do not worry. There is nothing to worry about. We make chances, we will score. Let’s go on, ”he told his team while Deschamps watched in the locker room at halftime.
(Of course, Antoine Griezmann equalized in the second half and kept France on course for the round of 16.)
Deschamps and Pogba are more than just a head coach and an important player. You also have an incredibly strong bond. They implicitly trust each other and Deschamps consults his number 6 on many decisions and decisions, be it the decision to recall Karim Benzema, the tactical line-up from game to game, or even his starting XI. The midfielder’s opinion – like that of Hugo Lloris or Raphael Varane, the other two great leaders in this squad – is important and valued.
After the win against Germany, Pogba had a message for all the families and friends of the players who stood together in one of the grandstands of the Allianz Arena in Munich. While punching his fist on the chest, he said to them, “We’re going to get this trophy. It’s not finished yet. It’s just the beginning. We’re all in it together.”