Pogba crucial to World Cup hopes: Deschamps

ST PETERSBURG (Russia) • Paul Pogba may be out of favour under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, but he remains integral to France's hopes of lifting their second World Cup in Russia.

The midfielder netted a brilliant free kick and Kylian Mbappe scored twice as the 1998 champions beat World Cup hosts Russia 3-1 in a friendly on Tuesday to bounce back from last Friday's 3-2 home defeat by Colombia.

Coach Didier Deschamps admitted France were counting heavily on Pogba, saying: "We expect a lot from him, I ask a lot from him.

"He was also playing a 'comeback' match because it's been a while since he played a full game. It'll do him a lot of good.

"Apart from the free kick, he showed creativity and quality of pass, he has that in his locker."

"We always have this ability to create opportunities, to score, and we managed three goals," Deschamps added.

"There are always things we can do better. In the first half, we gave away the ball a bit stupidly. But that was a little less the case in the second period."

Mbappe put France into a 40th-minute lead when he latched on to Pogba's through ball, cut inside and lashed in a low shot.

Pogba doubled the advantage four minutes after the break with a curler into the bottom corner past the diving Andrei Lunev.

Fedor Smolov gave Russia hope, beating Hugo Lloris after meeting a cross from Igor Smolnikov.

But Mbappe restored the two-goal cushion with seven minutes to go, skipping past Roman Neustadter and firing in a low shot that Lunev failed to grasp.

The 19-year-old became the youngest player to score a brace for Les Bleus but he was quick to play down his landmark moment.

"It's good, I'm happy but the important thing was to win," he said. "I do not chase after the records."

France kick off their World Cup campaign against Australia on June 16.

Russia are now winless in five matches, including draws with Iran and Spain and losses to Argentina and Brazil, since beating South Korea 4-2 last October.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2018, with the headline 'Pogba crucial to World Cup hopes: Deschamps'. Print Edition | Subscribe