Paul Pogba played a key role in France’s dominant win over Uruguay on Friday to book a semi-final meeting with Belgium next Tuesday.
The Frenchman was a guiding, meticulously accurate influence on the ball against a militantly organised Uruguay side, ensuring Didier Deschamps’ men kept probing with the ball.
Uruguay were largely impenetrable during the opening stages, with Pogba unable to make many inroads, but after Raphael Varane put Les Bleus ahead it was a stroll in the park for the 25-year-old.
Pogba’s numbers from the game illustrate just how fundamental he was to France’s performance in the absence of Blaise Matuiti.
Paul Pogba's game by numbers vs. Uruguay:
100% of tackles won
25 successful final third passes
4 aerial duels won
1 take-on completed
1 key pass
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) July 6, 2018
Those who believe Pogba is unable to ‘do a job’ and get his hands dirty, only comfortable when allowed the space to run forward, should watch this performance against Uruguay. Without Matuidi he had to dig in, prevent the ball from going through the lines and steer play in France’s direction alongside dictating it. And he did so with style and cold execution.
He has slipped under the radar at this World Cup to a degree, but make no mistake: he has been one of the tournament’s most influential midfielders, and will fancy his chances against a Belgium team whose players he knows very well.