French flair in abundance

Above: France forward Antoine Griezmann (right) celebrates with team-mate Adil Rami after converting a penalty in the 3-1 win against Italy in the friendly in Nice on Friday. The comfortable victory followed France's 2-0 triumph against the Republic of Ir
Above: France forward Antoine Griezmann (right) celebrates with team-mate Adil Rami after converting a penalty in the 3-1 win against Italy in the friendly in Nice on Friday. The comfortable victory followed France's 2-0 triumph against the Republic of Ireland on Monday.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Paul Pogba (with Italy's Jorginho) having a night to forget, with the Frenchman hitting a long-range shot that ended near the corner flag.
Paul Pogba (with Italy's Jorginho) having a night to forget, with the Frenchman hitting a long-range shot that ended near the corner flag.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Deschamps applauds team's pace in 3-1 warm-up win over Italy, but Pogba draws home fans' ire

NICE (France) • On the Allianz Riviera pitch, France showed the full range of their attacking weapons in a 3-1 win over Italy in a friendly on Friday. Off it, they were forced to defend Paul Pogba after the France midfielder was booed by his own fans in Nice.

The Manchester United man started in midfield but produced a below-par performance that included a second-half shot from more than 30m out that ended up near the corner flag.

He was jeered by a section of the home supporters after a misplaced pass, and again when he was replaced by Steven N'Zonzi with five minutes remaining.

Antoine Griezmann, a scorer on the night for France alongside Samuel Umtiti and Ousmane Dembele, backed Pogba to come good.

"The whistles are part of football, you have to stay tough mentally," said the striker.

"He plays his game, you're used to him scoring. We don't expect that from him, only that he rotates the ball and plays for the team.

"He has had a difficult season at Manchester United but he has a lot of confidence in himself."

TOUGHING IT OUT

The whistles are part of football, you have to stay tough mentally. He (Pogba) plays his game, you're used to him scoring. We don't expect that from him, only that he rotates the ball and plays for the team.

ANTOINE GRIEZMANN, on the crowd's reaction to Paul Pogba.

In February, Pogba was dropped from United's starting XI for a crucial Champions League tie against Sevilla. And his inconsistency could see the 25-year-old lose a starting spot on the international stage to Corentin Tolisso.

But even the Bayern Munich midfielder had plenty of sympathy for Pogba.

"The fans came to support the French team," Tolisso said. "Personally, when you witness this kind of whistling - and I also noticed some for Florian Thauvin - it's exasperating, it annoys me.

"We're all in the same boat, and we have to all stick together."

France fans were at least treated to an attacking display as Les Bleus continued their preparations for the World Cup.

They took the lead after eight minutes when Kylian Mbappe's fierce shot was parried by Salvatore Sirigu into the path of Umtiti, who poked the ball home from close range.

N'Golo Kante came close to doubling the tally after 20 minutes but his shot hit the post.

France earned a penalty for a Rolando Mandragora foul on Lucas Hernandez, which Griezmann coolly converted in the 29th.

After Leonardo Bonucci pulled one back for the visitors in the 36th minute, France responded.

And after a lightning quick counter-attack, Dembele hit the bar with a fine shot.

It was just a rehearsal for a similar move after the break, when the Barcelona forward curled another shot into the top corner.

"We showed that we can be fast and create a lot of chances," said France manager Didier Deschamps. "We have a good mindset but let's keep our feet on the ground.

"Let's stay how we are - ambitious and enthusiastic."

The match was only the second for Italy coach Roberto Mancini, who took the job last month after Gian Piero Ventura was sacked following the four-time world champions' failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first since 1958.

"At this moment, unfortunately, France are superior to us and have so many players available to them," said Mancini. "We must work and learn to get close to them, but we're on the right track."

Les Bleus, who take on Australia, Peru and Denmark in Group C in Russia this month, finish their preparations for the World Cup with a friendly against the United States in Lyon on Saturday.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 03, 2018, with the headline 'French flair in abundance'. Print Edition | Subscribe