PARIS (Reuters) – France bounced back from a home defeat by Colombia to beat World Cup hosts Russia 3-1 with Paul Pogba showing his best side, but Les Bleus still do not look ready for the soccer extravaganza in less than three months.
Pogba bossed the midfield, set up Kylian Mbappe’s first goal and scored a beautiful free kick with his 19-year-old partner netting a double in St Petersburg.
But after collapsing in the second half at the Stade de France as they squandered a two-goal lead in a 3-2 loss to Colombia last Friday, France were far from looking like world title contenders.
“It’s always better when we win but we feel like it was far from perfect,” said midfielder Blaise Matuidi.
“We can do better – we can do much better.”
Didier Deschamps’s side especially lacked aggressiveness in both matches and never looked safe, even against a weak Russia team.
“We need to be conquerors,” Matuidi added. “We must work on this because the World Cup is coming fast and we will need to be ready.
“In tough moments, maybe we did not show enough solidarity. We left too much space to our opponents and maybe we did not make enough efforts.”
Captain Hugo Loris, however, is confident that France, who won their only World Cup 20 years ago, will be ready on time.
“What matters is our opening game against Australia on June 16,” he said.
“Collectively, there is a big room for improvement. Whatever the system, what makes the difference in high-level football is the intensity you put into the games, the heart and the aggressiveness.”
“Against Russia, we only played well for parts of the game. We had trouble putting intensity into the match, to put rhythm into it and we let them score in the second half while we wanted to get a clean sheet,” said striker Olivier Giroud.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)