France head coach Didier Deschamps has dismissed suggestions he has “rediscovered” midfielder Paul Pogba as he “had not lost him” in the first place.
Pogba’s form in the early stages of Euro 2016 became a cause for national debate, with the Juventus star struggling to make an impact in the opener against Romania before being dropped for the clash with Albania in Marseille.
He was introduced at half-time against Gianni De Biasi’s men, helping inspire Les Bleus to a 2-0 win, and has remained in the starting XI since, culminating in a fine individual display against Iceland on Sunday.
“I had not lost him so I have not rediscovered him,” said Deschamps, speaking ahead of Thursday’s semi-final against world champions Germany in Marseille.
“It was a bit trickier for him at the start of the tournament but Paul has always stood up, even in the second game when I didn’t start him.
“Paul Pogba needs tranquility around him and it’s hard because you [the media] talk about him every day.
“Paul is doing well and, mentally, he knows what he can contribute to the team. He’s been playing very well the last two games and we’ll need him on Thursday.”
Deschamps is a former Marseille player and coach and is expecting a boisterous Stade Velodrome crowd to urge his side on.
“I think we will have the crowd right behind us as we saw here against Albania,” he said.
“We’ll need them because there will be some tough times. We are supported all over the country but they are more expressive here in Marseille. It’s a semi-final and it’s special, we will need all their support.”
Asked if it was the biggest match of his career, Deschamps added: “It’s difficult to make comparisons but clearly this is not something that crops up every day. We are playing a European Championship semi-final.
“I experienced them as a player but I don’t waste time on myself, what’s important is France. I don’t look at it from a personal perspective.
“I feel very privileged. The France national team means a great deal to me and I hope we can go as far as possible.”