‘Pogba surprised us’ – Griezmann praises Man Utd star’s World Cup influence

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On and off the field, the 25-year-old midfielder was an immense presence for the France squad, his colleague has said

Antoine Griezmann has talked up the impact that Manchester United’s Paul Pogba had on the France squad at the World Cup.

Although the midfielder has been subject to criticism since returning to his club side, he came of age for the national team at Russia 2018 and, according to his international team-mate, was a massive influence in the dressing room.

Pogba’s speech prior to the final against Croatia went viral, and the Atletico Madrid player, who scored in the 4-2 victory in Moscow, admitted that the former Juventus man was a real inspiration to those around him.

“Paul really took it up a notch in the locker room,” Griezmann admitted to L'Equipe. “He had the right words, which pushed us. Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane and Blaise Matuidi, we know they were leaders, but Pogba surprised us more and made us feel good.”

But on the field, Griezmann was equally impressed with his midfield cohort.

“The ‘Piochy’ we saw at the World Cup is the one I know,” he said, referring to his friend by his nickname. “He got the ball and played it quickly. He gained a lot of confidence. Now he can’t change. He has to be like ‘NG’ [N’Golo Kante]: win the ball then give it to the attackers.”

Griezmann admitted that he and the midfielder, who was a summer transfer target for Barcelona, have an offbeat relationship, which meant that when addressing the team, the 25-year-old could not make eye contact with the Ballon d’Or hopeful.

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“Every time he speaks, I want to laugh,” the attacker admitted. “Paul is so used to ‘disconnecting’ that he surprised me. That’s why, when he spoke, he never looked at me. He knew I’d have a little smile and could laugh at any moment. But it’s good for him and for us too.”

Pogba has won 60 caps for France and has scored 10 goals for his country, helping them to the final of Euro 2016 before their success in the summer.

Since winning the World Cup, he has captained United on two occasions despite reports of an ongoing rift with manager Jose Mourinho, which the Portuguese has been at pains to reject.

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