Euro 2016

France duo face scrutiny

France's Antoine Griezmann (facing camera) and Paul Pogba during training. Griezmann's effectiveness may have been blunted by his duties with Atletico Madrid, while France coach Didier Deschamps said he expected "much more" of Pogba.
France's Antoine Griezmann (facing camera) and Paul Pogba during training. Griezmann's effectiveness may have been blunted by his duties with Atletico Madrid, while France coach Didier Deschamps said he expected "much more" of Pogba.PHOTO: REUTERS

Griezmann, Pogba to seize opportunity to show better form against lowly Albania

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 today's Group A match when victory should assure the hosts a spot in the last 16 of 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 over 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 had 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.

"We must be better than against Romania," he said. "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. 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.

But a defensively tight Albania could test France's ability to carve open opposition defences, with Deschamps expected to ring a few changes among players at his disposal.

"There will be no easy matches but we're more relaxed now and determined to go all the way," said Matuidi.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GROUP A
France v Albania
Singtel TV Ch142 & StarHub Ch220, tomorrow, 2.50am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2016, with the headline 'France duo face scrutiny'. Print Edition | Subscribe