Paul Pogba has criticised the French media for their negative attitude toward the national team, while praising the British press for supporting theirs.
Pogba and his international teammates secured their place at next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia, but the style of play produced by the side in qualifying drew critical coverage from the media.
A defeat to Sweden and a surprise goalless draw at home to Luxembourg were the low points of an underwhelming campaign that, though ultimately successful, left the impression that a supremely-talented team had underperformed.
The wealth of talent at the disposal of France boss Didier Deschamps means many outside of the country are tipping the Euro 2016 runners-up to go close to claiming their nation’s second World Cup.
Pogba told SFR Sport he hopes the French media will get behind their cause rather than — as the Manchester United midfielder sees it — try to undermine it.
“You’d have to ask French journalists,” he said when asked why the press have been so negative toward Deschamps’ team. “The English media push their team on, upwards.
“Unfortunately, we French push the team into the water. Let’s hope all that changes, and that the journalists build us up rather than push us down.”
France are among the top seeds in Friday’s group-stage draw in Moscow, and will be one of the teams many of the other 31 countries heading to next summer’s finals will be keen to avoid.
With youngsters like Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele emerging in the last 12 months to join the likes of Pogba, Hugo Lloris and Antoine Griezmann, Deschamps would appear to have a difficult task in limiting his squad to just 23 such is the strength in depth of the talent available.
“I’m sure we make teams afraid, people can see we make teams afraid,” Pogba said. “We have players who are really developing well, young players who play at their clubs and who are very good.”
“We have players like [Raphael] Varane, [Samuel] Umtiti, who are young players but we don’t see them as being young because they have so much experience, have played so much.
“We have players who contribute so much to this team, and we have the experience we didn’t have three years ago.”
The painful experience of losing the European Championship final at home to Portugal was part of that learning curve, Pogba added.
“It really hurt, the Euro at home, it left scars,” he said. “I think we have learned from our mistakes. I think when there is a match like that, we won’t approach it in the same way. We’ll be a little more focused.”
Pogba has recently returned from a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined in the early stages of the season.
“It’s a blessing in disguise, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Pogba said of his injury, before addressing Eric Cantona’s statement that he is “the brain” of the current United side.
“I really liked that. He’s a legend at United. It makes me want to improve, to keep on working. It means I have to focus more on helping the team as much as possible.”
Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman