DOHA, December 16
Less than two years ago, Antoine Griezmann was wandering around like a lost soul in La Liga after a tough time at Barcelona and a rough return to Atletico Madrid but on Sunday he could lay claim to being France’s greatest player.
While Kylian Mbappe will also be a double world champion if Les Bleus beat Argentina in the final at the Lusail Stadium and could win the tournament’s Golden Boot, Griezmann has been the cornerstone of France’s success since Didier Deschamps took over in 2012.
He’s the type of player who can really change a team because he’s so hard working and so technically gifted. —Didier Deschamps, France coach
He has played in a record 73 consecutive matches for France, led them to the Euro 2016 final, was the Man of the Match in the 2018 World Cup final and this year has seamlessly switched roles to midfield to great effect.
A forward who was Euro 2016’s top scorer and the silver boot winner as the second-highest goalscorer at the 2018 World Cup, Griezmann has adjusted his role after Deschamps was forced to recalibrate his midfield due to the absences of Ngolo Kante, Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema.
There was no sulking from Griezmann, who has been revelling in his new role — his guile, craft and poise making him the perfect player to wreak havoc between the lines.
“Being well physically helps me a lot. There are no problems in my private life,” said Griezmann. “In my head I had tough moments at Barca and last year when I came back to Atletico. It was complicated, I had to make myself very small, I had to find myself, on and off the pitch.”
Griezmann has grown big in stature again. Very big indeed. “GriezmannKante”, Pogba labelled his teammate on social media after the semifinal win against Morocco. Griezmann’s joie de vivre off the pitch has also been key to France’s success. Beside being the link between the midfield and the front line on the pitch, he has also created a great atmosphere within the squad, bridging the young generation with the team leaders.
The 31-year-old Griezmann has been leading the post-match celebration dances in the dressing room to the sounds of Gala’s ‘Freed from desire’ — yelling ‘Vive la Republique , vive la France!’
While he has not scored in his last 15 games for France, Griezmann has become the national team’s best goal provider of all time with 28 assists. No wonder that he is Deschamps’s main man on the pitch, the one he discusses tactics with. While Griezmann feels he owes Deschamps a lot for always keeping faith with him, the coach is also aware of the player’s importance. “He’s the type of player who can really change a team because he’s so hard working and so technically gifted,” said Deschamps. — Reuters
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