Marseille : France hardly broke sweat during their win over minnows Albania to qualify for the Euro Cup quarter-finals, but not all among their ranks are in a jolly mood with star midfielder Paul Pogba and striker Antoine Griezmann reportedly unhappy over being denied a place in the starting XI.
Pogba — widely regarded as one of the best midfielders in the world — was introduced after halftime and played a big role in a much improved performance for the hosts after an uninspiring first half. Griezmann, who came
on in the 69th minute, put France in the lead in the final minute of regulation time. Deschamps admitted that he is aware of the situation, although he insisted on defending his tactical decisions during Wednesday’s game.
“I know he (Griezmann) is not happy, nor is Paul Pogba,” Deschamps told uefa.com on Wednesday. “Paul Pogba was more of a tactical decision. With that system I thought we needed two real scrappers in the middle of the park. Paul has different attributes. As for Griezmann, I am managing him. He is doing well but he had a busy season and we have three games in nine days. He made the difference even though I know he would have preferred to have started the game,” he added.
“Often players who come off the bench can make the difference. That was the case in the opening match and again tonight.” Deschamps also praised Dimitri Payet, who scored in the sixth minute of the second half added time to underline France’s dominance.
“Payet has become more consistent. He’s always had ability and a lot of confidence. Now, in one-on-one situations and challenges, he’s always up for the fight,” he said.
Wednesday’s win saw France become the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals and a draw in their final group game against Switzerland would guarantee top spot in Group A. Deschamps however, asserted that his team needs to improve if they want to emerge as one of the contenders for the title. “We have six points, we qualified, we clearly haven’t done everything well. If you see a team who does everything well, please tell me. We’ve watched all games. We were a bit laborious at the start. Scoring late is becoming a habit but, to be honest, I would prefer to break the deadlock a little earlier,” the 47-year-old said.
Deschamps, who was a member of the French squad that won the World Cup at home in 1998, also felt that the condition of the pitch hindered his team. “If you have an AC/DC concert one month before the Euros, then you are laying another turf, the pitch is no good. There are technical errors when you are trying to build up play. When I saw photos and videos of people coming away from the concerts, oh my, it shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” he said.