Pogba and Griezmann expected to rise to the occasion
PARIS – Albania are unlikely to pose much of a threat to France but Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann will be expected to produce sharper performances in Wednesday’s Group A match when victory should assure the hosts a last 16 spot in Euro 2016.
Midfielder Pogba and striker Griezmann were both lacklustre in France’s opening 2-1 win over Romania, a result that was salvaged thanks to Dimitri Payet’s stunning 89th minute strike.
Victory against Albania in Marseille would put France on six points from two games with their place in the knockout phase all but guaranteed.
“We all realise how important Antoine and Paul are for us and I’m sure you will see a great France team with both Antoine and Paul at their very best,” said midfielder Moussa Sissoko.
A long season with Atletico Madrid appears to have taken a toll on Griezmann. The 25-year-old played more than 50 official matches and was on club duty till May 28, when Atletico were beaten by Real Madrid in the Champions League final.
Pogba has struggled to recreate the impact he has with Juventus and coach Didier Deschamps said after the Romania game that he expected “much more” from the gifted midfielder.
“Paul can do better obviously but I’m not disappointed in his performance,” he said.
“The media are expecting too much from him. He has outstanding technical abilities but he’s also a player who does a lot of hard work, who wants to do well, maybe too well.”
Pogba, as well as fellow midfielder Blaise Matuidi and defender Laurent Koscielny skipped Sunday’s training session despite not reporting any injuries.
Matuidi believes France will fare better against Albania, who beat them 1-0 a year ago in a friendly game.
“We must be better than against Romania. We did not play the game we wanted to play but it was due to the context, it was the opening match (of the tournament). There is no particular problem,” he said.
“We must be able to take risks, to show personality. It will be better against Albania, I’m not worried at all.”
While Romania were strong in the midfield, Albania may struggle in that area since captain Lorik Cana will be suspended from the match. He was sent off in the 1-0 defeat by Switzerland.
“There will be no easy matches but we’re more relaxed now and determined to go all the way,” said Matuidi. –REUTERS