As well as deftly pinging balls forward in France’s attacking phases, the midfielder held off Ilkay Gundogan and remained unphased by a toothy Antonio Rudiger to secure French victory, writes Amarachi Orie.
A fearless Paul Pogba proved crucial to France’s 1-0 victory over Germany in the last fixture of the first round of the Euros. This was one of the most anticipated games of the week, featuring an array of reputable players with impressive statistics in both line ups.
Before the match even began, it was full of spectacle. A Greenpeace activist parachuted into the Allianz Arena and landed on the pitch before kick-off; but the man who called for the most attention was Pogba, as he dominated the field from the beginning until the end.
Germany were the quickest to get into the match, but both teams began playing comfortably and with ease. Then Pogba upped the tempo. The France midfielder tried to head in a corner in the 16th minute, but only managed to send the ball over the bar. That did not matter because within five minutes he aided France into the lead.
He boldly wrestled with Antonio Rudiger and Robin Gosens simultaneously, while passing the ball to Benjamin Pavard. Once the ball found him again, Pogba cleverly picked out a free-running Lucas Hernandez on the left flank. The ball was kicked towards goal and Germany’s Mats Hummels was forced into error, putting the ball into his own net. Pogba’s resilience against his opponents and his daring cross secured France’s lead within 20 minutes.
The Manchester United star spent the rest of the match maintaining the scoreline. Under his watch, Germany were not allowed to go level again. He bravely charged at opposition in a bid to dispossess them. No man was to be feared: not Thomas Muller; not Ilkay Gundogan.
In fact, Gundogan’s most promising chance of the half was foiled by Pogba, who slid in behind him as he took a shot at goal. The presence of the intimidating Pogba deterred the Germany midfielder, whose strike missed the target.
Rudiger found no other way of keeping Pogba in check than antagonising him on the stroke of half time, pushing his head against the back of Pogba’s shoulder, almost appearing to bite him. The France midfielder did vent a few frustrations, but otherwise, his confidence was by no means diminished.
He continued the second half in the same fashion as the first, fighting for the ball and creating chances. Germany were pushing the French team back in attempts to equalise but they failed every time. Instead, Pogba caught them on the counterattack.
In the 67th minute, Pogba set up a brilliant Kylian Mbappe curling shot, but his goal was ruled offside. However, the chance alone was a strong reminder that Germany were not on the front foot no matter how hard they tried.
Another ball to Mbappe in the 85th minute again built up to a goal by Karim Benzema, which was also disallowed for offside. However, it did the same job. It re-energised the French national team and shook their opponents. Germany failed to get the leveller they were looking for as the presence of Pogba was too powerful to bypass.
Germany have lost their opening Euros match for the first time in the history of the tournament, and a lot of the blame falls on Pogba. The World Cup winner was loud in his play, silencing the opposition. Pogba might not live up to his full potential while wearing the red of Manchester United, but in the jersey of his national team, he is formidable.
France are second in Group F, only behind Portugal on goal difference. With Champions League champion N’Golo Kante beside him, along with an array of football stars, Pogba has the right to be confident in seeing France through to the late stages of the competition.
Follow Amarachi on Twitter @iamarachii