Euro 2016: ‘People expect too much from Paul’: Didier Deschamps tells France fans not to expect too much from Pogba

French fans pinning their hopes on Paul Pogba being the talismanic midfielder leading them to European Championship glory on home soil may have to bank on someone else, according to the France coach.

Paul Pogba in a training session with the French squad at Stade de France. Georgi Licovski / EPA
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PARIS // French fans pinning their hopes on Paul Pogba being the talismanic midfielder leading them to European Championship glory on home soil may have to bank on someone else.

Among the world’s best players and valued at €100 million (Dh415.7m), Pogba shines for Juventus with driving runs and spectacular goals, but rarely plays with such panache for France because manager Didier Deschamps prefers him in a far more disciplined role.

“People expect too much from Paul,” Deschamps said. “People can’t accept any middle ground ... but he’s not going to score three goals every game.”

France have traditionally relied on a playmaker, or a No 10, during successful tournaments.

Zinedine Zidane scored two goals in the 1998 World Cup final when France beat Brazil 3-0, and the present Real Madrid manager also inspired France to reach the 2006 final.

Hosts France won the European Championship in 1984, with Michel Platini scoring nine goals in five games. But Pogba, 23, is not the same category of player.

“He is useful to the team because he’s a midfielder, not a No 10,” Deschamps said, putting it bluntly.

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The paradox between Pogba’s dynamic performances for Juve – 20 goals in the past two seasons – and his less expansive play for France is as striking as his inventive, razor-crafted haircuts.

His last goal for France was two years ago, and his return of five in 31 matches is substandard for a vastly talented, incredibly athletic player who is strong in the air and has a superb shot.

Much of that is down to Deschamps, the relentlessly hard-working midfield captain in France’s victorious World Cup and Euro sides of ‘98 and 2000.

Deschamps said Pogba was “not here to bring the crowd to their feet every time he’s on the ball”.

Such a statement will hardly have French fans salivating ahead of Friday’s opening game against Romania, but Deschamps wants Pogba to play more safely.

France’s other Group A opponents at Euro 2016 are Albania and Switzerland, meaning Pogba faces little competition in midfield until the knockout stages.

Better sides such as Germany and Spain are lethal on the break when teams lose possession, meaning that Pogba’s urge to push up and dribble his way out of trouble could prove problematic.

That is why Deschamps talks about “middle ground” when speaking about Pogba, because his aim is not to make him stand out but to use his considerable abilities for what is best for his team.

Meanwhile, France’s billing as one of the favourites for Euro 2016 means nothing to captain Hugo Lloris, who is demanding a strong start in Friday’s opening match against Romania.

Although France are in good form, scoring 13 goals in the past four matches, they have played only friendly games since losing to Germany in the World Cup quarter-finals two years ago.

“There’s a lot of expectation. We know the importance of this match, how important it is to make a good start,” Lloris said yesterday at the pre-match news conference in Paris. “We’ve played friendlies for two years and there have been a lot of positives, but things start for real tomorrow.”

Since losing the 2006 World Cup final to Italy on penalties France have been a fading force in a decade dominated by Spain, winner of the past two Euros and the 2010 World Cup, and by Germany, winners of the last World Cup.

First-round exits at Euro 2008 and at the 2010 World Cup – a shambolic campaign featuring an embarrassing players’ strike – dented confidence hugely. Although form was regained two years ago at the World Cup, France’s performances in Brazil still lacked the panache of old.

“We’ve done nothing, we haven’t proved anything compared to Germany and Spain,” Lloris said. “But playing on home soil gives us a little bit of an advantage and we have to use it.”

Lloris, 29, one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers for Tottenham Hotspur, stands to win his 76th cap Friday.

“For everyone it’s the most important competition of their career. If you ask my teammates, they’d say the same,” he said. “As long as we have this spirit, the hunger to win tackles I have no doubts.”

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