Opponent Watch: Pogba at the centre of France fan poll

With just over a week until the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ commences, preparations are in full swing for all 32 competing nations.

We've rounded up the best of the action in today's edition of Opponent Watch.

DAY 16 WRAP: ‘It’s all tactical, we’re working on the starting XI’

REVEALED: Caltex Socceroos FIFA World Cup squad numbers

CONFIRMED: Every 2018 FIFA World Cup™ 23-man squad

Pogba debate continues

The Paul Pogba debate in France has continued overnight with a poll run by popular magazine French Football about the star midfielder's form heading into the FIFA World Cup™.

The poll asked whether the star midfielder should keep his position in the Didier Deschamp’s starting XI for France’s FIFA World Cup™ campaign with 73% of the 7,000 participants indicating their preference to see the Manchester United man benched for Les Bleus' opening Group C fixture with the Caltex Socceroos.

Paul Pogba
Pogba has been the target for French ire in the build up to the FIFA World Cup™.

It comes shortly after Deschamps had issued a public backing of the 25-year-old, with teammates Antoine Griezmann and Corentin Tolisso also pleading for unity ahead of the tournament.

Manchester City star misses Germany squad

Leroy Sane will not be travelling to the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ after the Manchester City starlet did not make the final 23-man Germany squad, announced by coach Joachim Low.

Sane has made 12 appearances for the reigning FIFA World Cup™ Champions after making his debut back in November 2015 against France.

According to Low, the attacker was eclipsed by Bayer Leverkusen winger Julian Brandt.

"It was a tight race between Leroy Sane and Julian Brandt,” said the Germany stalwart.

“Both have big qualities, both are good in the one-on-one duels.

"Julian Brandt was at the Confederations Cup, had some strong games there, and put in good shifts in the training camp too. Leroy Sane is a huge talent, no doubt, and he will be back with the team in September."

The 22-year-old flyer collected Premier League and English League Cup honours this season alongside the Premier League Young Player of the Year award.

Germany begin the defence of their 2014 title with Group F fixtures against Mexico, Sweden and South Korea.

Sane
Sane's omission underlines Germany's embarrassment of riches ahead of their title defence.

Bicycle kick disaster for Poland

The FIFA World Cup™ dream could be over for Poland defender Kamil Glik after the 30-year-old injured his shoulder attempting a bicycle kick in training.

The Monaco man, who has 58 caps for the national side, was taken to hospital in Nice and will learn his tournament fate following imminent medical tests.

Glik’s absence would be a blow for Poland who hold high ambitions ahead of the tournament. Adam Nawałka’s side are hoping to qualify for the Round of 16 from Group H with Senegal, Colombia and Japan also vying for a top two finish.

Ronaldo arrives for Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo has joined up with Portugal’s FIFA World Cup™ in Cascais as the reigning European champions continue their preparations for the tournament in Russia.

The Real Madrid star was handed an extended holiday following the club’s third consecutive UEFA Champions League victory over Liverpool in May – and his arrival has provided an immediate lift for the Fernando Santos coached side according to midfielder Joao Moutinho.

"The quality increases having the best player in the world with us but the demand continues to be the same," said the Monaco veteran.

"We have a complete group now. He is an added value. We have the best in the world with us and we have to learn and evolve with him."

Ronaldo and Portugal play their final pre-tournament friendly against Algeria on Friday morning before commencing their FIFA World Cup™ campaign against Spain on June 16.

The two European heavyweights will be aiming to progress from a Group B that also features Iran and Morroco.

Other news: Liverpool maestro to feature; injury doubt for Belgium skipper

Injured Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has been selected for Egypt’s FIFA World Cup™ squad but will not join up with teammates until June 9 as the star nurses a shoulder injury.

The Premier League golden boot winner was expected to miss three weeks following an injury sustained in the UEFA Champions League Final following a clash with Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and will not play in Egypt’s final pre-tournament friendly against Belgium on Thursday morning.

However, Salah is expected to feature at some stage during the FIFA World Cup™ and could be in the running to play Uruguay in the nation’s opening encounter on Friday 15 June. Hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia also make up Group A.

Elsewhere, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez will leave a decision regarding defender Vincent Kompany’s fitness to the eve of their World Cup opener against Panama as the Manchester City captain harbors a muscle injury suffered against Portugal on Saturday.

FIFA’s deadline for replacing injured players is June 17.

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This article was originally published on the Caltex Socceroos website.
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