Thursday 18 July 2019

POST-MATCH REACTION: Deschamps hails French character as Pogba's brilliant performance is praised by pundit Ferdinand

THUMBS UP: France head coach Didier Deschamps celebrates last night’s World Cup semi-final win over Belgium in St Petersburg. Pic: Reuters
THUMBS UP: France head coach Didier Deschamps celebrates last night’s World Cup semi-final win over Belgium in St Petersburg. Pic: Reuters

Rio Ferdinand declared Paul Pogba was proved he was worth the £89m Manchester United paid to sign him as his battling performance helped France to secure a place in the World Cup final.

Samuel Umtiti's 51st minute goal separated the sides in a tight World Cup semi-final in St Petersburg, with United legend Ferdinand hailing the contribution of one of the club's most scrutinised players.

"Paul Pogba today showed why he went for so much money," Ferdinand told the BBC. "His discipline, which he's been called out for beforehand, seemed to come into play.

"There's an understanding about his game, a maturity today in this game. Not just today, but in this tournament he's grown and grown and grown." Ferdinand's fellow pundit Alan Shearer echoed those sentiments, as he poured praised on the France midfielder.

"I think Paul Pogba plays with a freedom in this French team that if he makes a mistake, it is accepted, but he looks scared to make that same mistake in a Manchester United shirt," said Shearer.

PROUD: Belgium manager Roberto Martinez. Pic: Getty
PROUD: Belgium manager Roberto Martinez. Pic: Getty

"He was excellent in several respects in this game. He fought for his team, he tracked back and his passing was superb. That's what we want to see from him."

Meanwhile, there was criticism of one of Belgium's Manchester United contingent from former Arsenal defender Martin Keown, as he questioned the qualities of striker Romelu Lukaku.

"Lukaku just has not got what it takes to play in a World Cup final and he showed that tonight," said Keown.

"This game never lived up to the billing. We thought there was going to be extra time tonight. All credit to France they were remarkably professional. France looked a class apart from Belgium."

France coach Didier Deschamps hailed the character of his young team after winning through to Sunday's final in Moscow. "It was exceptional," he said.

"I'm very happy for my players, we showed character and the right mentality, it was very hard for us tonight. We worked hard defensively.

"We had to take advantage a bit more in the counter attacks. But congratulations to my players and my staff. I feel very proud for my group," said Deschamps, who is aiming to join Germany's Franz Beckenbauer and Brazil's Mario Zagallo as the only men to have won the World Cup as both a player and a manager.

"Forty-nine days together, it is a lot of things, difficult things, the group stage, it is the merit of everyone."

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was also proud of his players despite the defeat.

"Unfortunately for us the difference was a dead-ball situation. The game was very close, very tight and it was going to be decided by a little bit of luck in front of goal," said the Spaniard. "I thought the attitude of the players was magnificent and I couldn't ask for any more. The players gave everything and were pushing until the last second to get back in the game.

"That's the detail you get in the semi-final of the World Cup. We're disappointed, we wanted to get into the final, we need to put this behind us and look forward to the next game. We need to go out on a real high, these players deserve that."

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