Pogba responds to criticism with rocket

France midfielder Paul Pogba (left) is congratulated by team-mates after scoring from 25 metres out against the Netherlands.
France midfielder Paul Pogba (above) is congratulated by team-mates after scoring from 25 metres out against the Netherlands.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Under-fire France star scores winner against the Dutch with powerful long-range strike

AMSTERDAM • France lived up to their name as Group A favourites after a searing first-half strike from Paul Pogba handed Les Bleus a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over the Netherlands on Monday.

Criticised by coach Didier Deschamps for his performance in last Friday's 4-1 win over Bulgaria in Paris, Pogba emphatically replied with a towering display for France in Amsterdam.

The Manchester United midfielder's powerful hit from 25 metres out after half an hour left diving Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg unable to stop the fizzing ball from flying into his net, despite getting his hands to it.

"I didn't speak to him (Pogba), I just said a few words to him before entering the changing room, 'I have confidence in you'," said Deschamps.

"The match confirms what he is able to do. Pogba was much better in everything he did. He showed what he can do.

"We never doubted he could do it. We mustn't forget Paul is relatively young and he can still progress."

France, losing finalists on home soil at Euro 2016, are equal on seven points at the top of Group A with Sweden, who beat Bulgaria 3-0 at home in Solna. The two countries will play on Nov 11 at the Stade de France.

"If the team have a good match, I have a good match," said Pogba, 23.

"If it's a bad match, I have a bad match. We're not going to talk about individual performances. Today it was a good team effort."

The Dutch failed to make it to the Euros and sit third in the group, needing to improve fast if they are to make it to Russia in 2018.

"Our goalkeeper made a mistake which he never makes in training," said Netherlands coach Danny Blind.

"We played better in the second half and we should have had at least a point because we had chances at the end of the match."

In Group B, Portugal's Andre Silva scored a first-half hat-trick to set them on the way to a 6-0 demolition of the Faroe Islands.

Cristiano Ronaldo was also on target as Portugal hit six goals for the second time in four days following their rout of Andorra on Friday.

The European champions added two more goals in stoppage time as Joao Moutinho curled a delightful effort into the top corner and Joao Cancelo slotted home from Gelson Martins' pass.

Portugal are second in Group B with six points from three games, three behind Switzerland who edged Andorra 2-1 away to maintain their 100 per cent record.

After the match, Portugal coach Fernando Santos called for his side to win all their remaining games.

"We have to win everything. Other teams will not lose many points. If we do not lose then I believe that we will finish first," the coach said.

On the win, Santos was delighted with the attitude on display.

"We fulfilled the plan that we set out with a very correct attitude which was key to the game," he said. "Today our attitude was right."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'Pogba responds to criticism with rocket'. Print Edition | Subscribe