Opponent Watch: ‘He must have 15 lungs’

Paul Pogba has been a key figure in France’s two wins at the2018 FIFA World Cup™ but reserved some special praise for a couple of his midfield partners.

Plus another blow for reigning champions Germany ahead of their must-win clash, while there’s some harsh criticism for Argentina.

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It’s all in our latest edition of FIFA World Cup™ Opponent Watch…

FRANCE

Paul Pogba says fellow France midfielders N'Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi must have "15 lungs" because of the ground they have covered at the FIFA World Cup™.

While Pogba has been involved in all three of France’s goals at the tournament so far, it was Kante and Matuidi who also impressed in the win over Peru.

Kante has already recorded 27 recoveries in Russia, according to Opta data, which is one short of France's best tally of 28, managed by Pogba at the 2014 finals in Brazil.

"My duo with Kante? It's so easy to play with 'NG'," Pogba told reporters.

"He is everywhere. He must have 15 lungs. Blaise has 15 lungs too. I'm surrounded with talent.”

French boss Didier Deschamps also singled out the Chelsea star after the win over Peru, which saw youngster Kylian Mbappe take out man-of-the-match honours for scoring the only goal of the game.

"Kante had a great game, he was free in the system. I'm not the person who decides man of the match, but usually it's someone who scores,” Deschamps said.

“I don't think N'Golo's interested in winning it, he's more interested in what he can give to the team, even if he's not in the limelight."

Pogba and his France teammates were all smiles after the win over the Socceroos.
Paul Pogba and his France teammates after the win over the Socceroos.

GERMANY

Defender Mats Hummels has been ruled out of Germany’s vital clash with Sweden on Sunday (AEST) due to a neck injury.

Still reeling from their shock 1-0 loss to Mexico in their opening game, the reigning FIFA World Cup™ champions have now lost their most experienced centre-back for the must-win encounter in Sochi.

“He hurt his neck [vertebrae] yesterday and he hasn't improved today," German boss Joachim Low confirmed.

"We need players good in aerial play. I have an idea, a match plan for tomorrow. We will see what the final session yields."

There’s been talk of squad disharmony in the German camp following the loss to Mexico, with Hummels among a number of players to criticise the team’s approach.

Low played down any talk of a rift in the camp and expects his side to hit back against the Swedes.

"The players showed a reaction this week to the events on the weekend in terms of training. [Saturday] is what counts,” he said.

“We have to see a difference in terms of performance. I am convinced they will show a reaction."

Germany defender Mats Hummels.
Germany defender Mats Hummels.

ARGENTINA

1978 FIFA World Cup™ winner Ossie Ardiles has slammed Argentina in a lengthy social media post, dubbing the current squad the worst ever.

Argentina are on the brink of exiting the tournament in the group stage after only managing a 1-1 draw with Iceland followed by a 3-0 loss to Croatia in Group D.

And Ardiles let fly on Twitter, criticising the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and coach Jorge Sampaoli.

"From world champion to being the worst national team in Argentine history. Where to start? From the top," he wrote.

"AFA from botch to botch, three coaches in a year and a president elected in the spur of the moment.

"Players. Many, too many of them whose time in the national team is up. The lack of personality is striking.

"Plan A of Sampaoli: give the ball to Messi and wait for a miracle. If plan A doesn't work, plan B. There's no plan B."

He also labeled coach Sampaoli as Ardiles also described Sampaoli as "arrogant" and "ignorant".

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This article was originally published on the Caltex Socceroos website.
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