'He is one of the leaders' - Deschamps praises Pogba after France win in Croatia

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AFP
The Manchester United midfielder was hailed by his national team manager after they edged to victory in Zagreb in a 2018 World Cup final repeat

France coach Didier Deschamps hailed "leader" Paul Pogba after a 2-1 Nations League win over Croatia on Wednesday.

Pogba came off the bench in Zagreb and his long pass led to Lucas Digne setting up Kylian Mbappe's 79th-minute winner.

Antoine Griezmann's eighth-minute opener had earlier been cancelled out by Nikola Vlasic, but France ensured they moved onto 10 points, equal with Portugal in Group A3.

Deschamps was full of praise for Manchester United midfielder Pogba, particularly for the pass that led to Mbappe's goal.

"About Pogba, of course we could talk about him being unquestionable, but we could say the same of Antoine Griezmann," Deschamps told a news conference.

"He is one of the leaders, he has this capacity to be decisive and also to be a leader in the group. He didn't start because it was wiser for him not to start, with the problem that he had, but yes, he is one of the most important players of the team.

"Even though, sometimes, it could have some hard times, but he has this strength to bring together.

"Also, he has this quality in the pre-assist. I don't take away anything from the quality of the centre of Lucas Digne, but he has this technique quality, not necessarily by dribbling as he used to do it before, but this pass is the one that triggers everything."

Deschamps' leadership was also praised, with Griezmann thanking his manager for playing him as a central forward, rather than on the right where he has often been deployed for Barcelona.

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"The coach knows where to put me," Griezmann said of Deschamps in an interview with TF1. "I take advantage of this situation, of this place, of the confidence of the coach and my team-mates. 

"It was a complicated match, not very beautiful to see, not very beautiful to play, on a difficult ground. We knew how to suffer, the most important is to win and show that we are strong."

France will face Finland in a friendly next month before completing their Group A3 campaign against Portugal and Sweden. The winner of the group qualifies for the four-team final tournament, scheduled for next year.

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