France vs Nigeria preview World Cup 2014: Paul Pogba points the way for next generation of stars

Sought-after Juventus midfielder has delivered a tantalising glimpse of the future

This could well be Lionel Messi’s World Cup, but it has also been a World Cup for a glimpse of the next great generation of footballers, post-Messi and post-Cristiano Ronaldo.

James Rodriguez, of course, has scored five goals and will meet Neymar, who has four, in a titanic quarter-final in Fortaleza on Friday night.

Those two will dominate South American football for the next decade, while Europe’s best young player can assert his claim to the future this afternoon. Marco Verratti, Raheem Sterling and Koke have all gone home, but Paul Pogba – who turned 21 in March – is still here, and his France side will take on Nigeria in Brasilia today, fighting for a place in the quarter-finals.

Pogba, so far, has shown glimpses of the talent which has made him one of the most sought-after midfielders in the game. He performs a role similar to the one he has at Juventus, to provide the thrust, the explosion and the incision in a three-man midfield. Blaise Matuidi, himself a dangerous force, does the same job on the other side while Yohan Cabaye sits in between the two of them, directing play forward with his delightful range of passing.

It is a perfectly balanced midfield – just like Pogba, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal at Juventus – and provided the solid basis for France’s excellent opening stage, in which they scored eight goals in their first two games, flying through Group E.

 

 

Against Honduras, Pogba might have been sent off early on for taking umbrage at being repeatedly stamped on by Wilson Palacios, but went on to run the game, surging through the middle and winning the penalty for France’s opening goal.

Pogba was taken off after an hour but started the  second game, against Switzerland in Salvador, on the bench. But when he came on in the second half he was electric, setting up a goal for Karim Benzema with a beauty of a pass: fading away off the outside of his right boot, bending away from defenders, beyond the reach of Philippe Senderos and into Benzema’s path.

That is the thing about Pogba. Like Yaya Touré, whom he most resembles, his natural athleticism can blind people to his wonderful technical skill, vision and imagination. He is futuristically complete, remarkably so for one so young, and has scored some brilliant goals during his two full seasons with Juventus, in which he has won two Serie A titles.

If the way in which Pogba departed Manchester United left a sour taste at Old Trafford, the player himself can have few regrets. He is certain to be in demand again this summer and is already the type of player who can legitimately ask which suitor would give him the best chance of winning the Champions League. He would improve almost every midfield in European football.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Real Madrid are interested, while Paris  Saint-Germain would dearly love to have the next great French player, a native Parisian and probably the next captain of France. His agent, Mino Raiola, is close to PSG, having taken Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Maxwell and Gregory van der Wiel, among others, to the French capital.

There is no limit to what Pogba can achieve in the future, in club and the international game. But as he has been demonstrating with such panache for Juventus, his time has already begun.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor