Didier Deschamps rang the changes for France and admitted afterwards that Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann were unhappy about being dropped to the substitutes’ bench for their team’s victory over Albania.
Griezmann came on to tilt the game with a goal in the 90th minute, before Dimitri Payet added a second to send France into the last 16.
“I know he is not happy, nor is Paul Pogba,” said Deschamps, although he remained adamant his choices were made with the team’s progress in mind. “Paul Pogba was more of a tactical decision,” the manager explained. “With that system I thought we needed two real scrappers in the middle of the park. Paul has different attributes. As for Griezmann, I am managing him. He is doing well but he had a busy season and we have three games in nine days. He made the difference even though I know he would have preferred to have started the game.”
Deschamps has varied his attack in France’s two games, starting with one set and ending with another, and he sees that as one of the team’s strengths. “I have solutions on the bench in order to change the performance. In games against a tight defence you need to wear them down. We kept pushing right to the end. We did everything we could, in any case.”
France are through to the knockout phase and a draw in their final group game against Switzerland would guarantee top spot. Deschamps wants his team to keep growing. “We have six points, we qualified, we clearly haven’t done everything well. If you see a team who does everything well, please tell me. We’ve watched all games. We were a bit laborious at the start. Scoring late is becoming a habit but, to be honest, I would prefer to break the deadlock a little earlier.”
On a different note Deschamps was critical of the pitches that he does not think have helped his team’s attempts to play technically accomplished football. A few players fell over at key moments. “It’s a disaster but that’s not surprising,” he said.
“If you have an AC/DC concert one month before the Euros, then you are laying another turf, the pitch is no good. There are technical errors when you are trying to build up play. When I saw photos and videos of people coming away from the concerts, oh my, it shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”
Albania’s coach, Giovanni De Biasi, has not given up hope that his team might sneak into the next round with a win in their final group game against Romania. “If we are able to score the goals we haven’t managed against Switzerland and France we can get the three points that might get us into the second round,” he said.
“I am, of course, disappointed to concede a minute before the end. But I told my players to be proud of a terrific performance. I think we really caused problems for France tonight. I will say we have showed we are a proper team who play good football.”
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