Pogba: We won't repeat the mistake of 2016
Paul Pogba is determined to go one better than Euro 2016 and win the 2018 World Cup with France, as he prepares for the biggest game of his career.
The Manchester United midfielder has enjoyed a magnificent tournament and has been one of the shining lights during Les Bleus’ journey to the final, where they will take on Croatia in Russia on Sunday at 16:00 BST.
Two years ago, Didier Deschamps’s side also reached the European Championship final as the host nation but fell at the last hurdle, losing 1-0 to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal after extra time.
However, Pogba is desperate to banish the memories from that disappointing night at the Stade de France and bring joy to the people of France.
“I know the taste of defeat in a final and it's really not good – very bitter,” Paul told reporters at a press conference ahead of the showpiece at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
“We will not approach this final like the Euros. We will finish well with smiles to make France explode. We saw the photos, it was extraordinary. We want to see this again, with the players jumping, shouting, everywhere, with all of France, all our fans, all our families, everyone.”
Paul spoke openly and honestly about the experience of 2016, admitting that France underestimated the situation and it backfired, but stressed that he and his team-mates will not make the same misjudgement again.
“We know it, you all know it – I think at the Euros we thought it was a done deal,” Pogba confessed.
“The mentality was not the same. I cannot lie when we beat Germany [in the quarter-final], we thought that was the final. Against Portugal, we thought that even if it were the Portuguese, with their run, we said to ourselves ‘it was already won before the start of the game’.
“I think that was our mistake. Now, it's not the same, and because of this, we are conscious of not making the same mistake. We will really approach this match differently, we really want to work for it, we will focus on giving everything to take this cup home.”
Pogba and co will face a Croatia side who have surprised many to reach their first World Cup final, beating England 2-1 after extra time in Wednesday’s semi-final.
Although he feels it will be a tough task to overcome Zlatko Dalic’s well-drilled team, Paul is confident Les Bleus will be fully prepared as he hopes to inspire his country to become world champions for the second time, earning a second star on his France jersey.
“If you’ve seen the match [against England], the Croatians are not just Modric. There is also [Mario] Mandzukic, [Ivan] Rakitic, [Ivan] Perisic – even the defenders are well known, these are great players,” Paul explained.
“We will prepare well for the match, we will watch the match [against England].
“We will analyse all of this and we will make sure that the Croatians are not in good shape, and that we can block their best player and their best plan of attack. The most important thing is to win. The plan, the analysis, it will stay on the pitch, but the most important thing is the will to win.
“The Croatians want the star [representing World Cup wins on their shirt]. They don't have one. I have no star. There is a star on my jersey but I did not win it, so I want mine, like the other players. It will be a difficult match, it’s a World Cup final. We will play against big players, world class players. It will be a very big match, very difficult. Two teams, one cup. Voila.”