Paul Pogba scores winner for France in World Cup opener against Australia

by Leo Nieboer

Paul Pogba scored the winner with ten minutes left to save France’s skin and give his country a winning start to their World Cup campaign against Australia in Kazan.

The Manchester United midfielder, who had good and bad moments under Jose Mourinho last season, was largely frustrated against a solid Australia side as France failed to impress with a lethargic, predictable display.

He played an important role in France’s opener, feeding the ball through to Antoine Griezmann who won and then converted a penalty, only for Australia to respond from the spot through Mile Jedinak moments later.

France didn’t look like forging an opening but Pogba, once again taking the reins in a big game, surged forward and saw his effort – via a considerable deflection – sail over Matt Ryan and just over the line to give Les Bleus a winning start to the finals.

It was a game – dampened and soured and polluted by the dull set tones of Mark Lawrenson – that saw Pogba encounter similar problems to what he has experienced under Mourinho all too often over the last couple of seasons.

France’s tempo was too slow and too predictable against Australia’s low block, the ball moving harmlessly from side to side and failing to make its way often enough to the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe in key positions.

Just like United, this was often little more than 10 outfield players moving around the pitch aimlessly, individually, all trying to hack away at Australia in their special own way, stimulating collective dysfunction and a dour spectacle.

But Pogba took a chance, working the ball to the left and surging into a gap between midfield and defence, receiving it back and flashing a shot on goal. Sometimes you need that luck; Pogba deserves credit for rolling the dice when nobody else would.

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