France overcomes Albania
In headline-grabbing style, France seized a late 2-0 victory over Albania, which puts them top of Group A. Didier Deschamps made the right decision to rest Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann. This is because rotation allowed Kingsley Coman and Dimitri Payet to excel, before allowing Pogba and Griezmann to change the match.
A gargantuan effort from Albania seemingly promised a draw. After half time, France brought on Pogba for Anthony Martial, converting from a 4-2-3-1 formation to the more familiar 4-3-3. Their increasing pressuring and hassling shook the opposition defence. The goals finally came in the 89th and 95th minute from Griezmann and Payet.
Deschamps Right To Rest Pogba and Griezmann
It is important that the best players receive rest in the tournament. This is why Deschamps was right to rest arguably two of his best players. Now through to the final 16, it is important to further protect these stars. This is because they will be vital in every match to pave a route to the final.
There is one more Group A match against Switzerland to decide who wins the group. It may be important to finish top to face lesser opposition and to progress further in the competition. Equally, it is important to conserve key players and to make the most of the squad.
Resting them also allowed for Coman and Payet to play. All night long, Coman was a threat with his dribbling, toying with the Albanian defence. Payet also had a fantastic game, with a good standard of set pieces, good dribbling and passing and a goal to top it off. Arguably, he is more effective coming in from the wing. Nevertheless, both players justified their manager’s team selection.
In terms of the match, saving the two key players until the second half was a success. The likes of Coman and Martial had worn down the defence with their pace and dribbling ability. This orchestrated the late show. Most importantly, the change in formation benefited the team. By switching to the 4-3-3, they posed more of an attacking threat. This heaped even more pressure onto the opposition defence. In the end, Griezmann grabbed the crucial goal with a delicately flicked header to the bottom left corner.
The decision to rest Pogba illustrated the point that the team is not carried by him. This is a crucial point because there has been far too much pressure on him. Whilst he is a quality player, he cannot be expected to carry France on his own.
His performance against Albania was average and was synonymous with over-complication and ostentation. There is no doubting his ability, but sometimes the press headlines are already written as he takes a shot, or attempts a solo run. It’s wrong to limit such a creative, technical and physical player, but Deschamps must use him wisely. The manager has said: “People expect too much from Paul”, clearly recognising the pressure on the young man’s shoulders. This is where the manager must step in and protect his player, ensuring that he can grow into the tournament and into their expectations.