Lyon (AFP) – France coach Didier Deschamps has called on star midfielder Paul Pogba to concentrate for his country ahead of their Euro 2016 second round clash with the Republic of Ireland on Sunday.
The Juventus player was lambasted after France’s first match against Romania, was kept on the bench for the second and made a full return for the third against Switzerland.
Deschamps said the 23-year-old who has been linked to big money moves is better when he is out of the headlines.
“Paul had a difficult first match, he came one in the second and had a very good first half against Switzerland,” Deschamps said.
“He is ready and needed calm to prepare well. There is a lot of talk about him but he is still quite young and needs to have tranquility and concentration,” the coach added.
Deschamps said West Ham United’s Dimitri Payet deserves the star status he has achieved with his sparkling performances for France.
“I am very happy with what Dimitri has done because he is decisive,” the coach said.
“He takes (the star status) well, he has had a lot of deserved praise but he got back to work at the start of the week to maintain this performance level.”
– Playing from the heart –
Deschamps added that “Dimitri is not a young player, he does not have a lot of experience in the French team but he knows what he went through before, he knows what it took to get here and he is not going to change that.”
While favourites against the Irish in Lyon, Pogba and Payet’s match-winning skills could be needed against a team that Deschamps said has “a lot of heart and more as they are good footballers.
“They all play in the Premier League and are used to playing the best English teams, they can play on the ground even if it is mostly the direct game.”
Deschamps joined his Irish Republic counterpart Martin O’Neill in urging both sides to forget Thierry Henry’s handball in 2009 which set up a goal that sent France through to the 2010 World Cup at the expense of the Republic.
“That belongs to history,” Deschamps insisted. “There is no revenge. You cannot change what happened in the past. You cannot have that feeling at the top level.”
France has had a whole week to rest, more time than any other team, but captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said they still expected a “battle” on Sunday.
The team has “recovered well”, he said, but added: “The closer we get to the match the more the adrenaline rushes.
“Our heads are focused on this encounter, the battle ahead. I use that word because we know this team.
“The Irish put a lot of heart and passion into it. We will have to quickly start winning the duels so that they do not gain confidence.”
Lloris will captain France for the 55th time, a national record. It will also be his 79th cap and Deschamps led tributes to the Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper’s stature.
“He has a legitimacy, an exemplarity which is recognised in the squad,” said Deschamps.
“He does not talk all the time, but when he has something to say he says it and makes himself heard./gj
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