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Jun 20, 2013

Coach eases pressure on Pogba

France's Under-20 coach has relieved the pressure on captain Paul Pogba by insisting the Juventus star's displays alone will not decide his nation's World Cup fate.

• Brassell: Stars ready to dazzle

Following his summer move to Turin from Manchester United, Pogba, 20, emerged as a key figure in his club's scudetto success, and earned himself a senior international debut.

He will lead his country out to face Ghana in Istanbul in their opening group game on Friday, but coach Pierre Mankowski told L'Equipe that Pogba's impressive supporting cast, which includes Lyon defender Samuel Umtiti, Lille left-back Lucas Digne and Sevilla midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, will also need to perform.

He said: "I think the advantage of this team is that there isn't one player who's head and shoulders above the others. There are a lot of players who are at a very high level.

"When you have key elements, such as Paul, Samuel, Geoffrey, Lucas, who are leaders, that pulls the whole squad upwards. But it's not just one player who'll make the difference. They're all aware of that."

A former assistant coach to Jacques Santini and Raymond Domenech with the senior French team, Mankowski, 61, whose team also face Spain and the USA in a testing Group A, acknowledged his squad's aim was ultimate victory in Turkey, but he stopped short of predicting success despite the prodigious talents at his disposal.

He said: "We're not announcing anything at all. Simply, I think this generation is fortunate to have players who are in the media spotlight because of their qualities.

"The way people look at them is different as a result. In a season, they have become first-team regulars with big clubs and that's really a huge advantage," he explained, adding success has not gone to his most highly-reputed players' heads.

"If they weren't still hungry, they wouldn't be here. They would have found an excuse. We're lucky to have a squad who really like being together.

"What always surprises me is that certain players will go and play in front of 50,000 and then after they can play in a small stadium in front of 2,000 people. But we've never had a player say to us: 'What's this stadium? Why are we playing in a small town?' What matters to them is playing together."

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