Before France began their world title defense there was much talk of Kylian Mbappe, the absences of Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba due to injuries, the possibility of Olivier Giroud breaking Thierry Henry’s record for the number of goals scored for the national team. But less about Antoine Griezmann. Or anyway less than four years ago, where he was the first violin, with 4 goals and 2 assists.
Antoine Griezmann, the generous man who also breaks records
But the 31-year-old player from Atletico Madrid has done it in such a way that he is back in the limelight. To receive the attention like a “World class player”. Antonie Griezmann is essential in Deschamps’ starting eleven at the World Cup in Qatar. He is showing his best version and has assumed the role of “10” in the France team.
The wearer of shirt number 7 (number 10 is Mbappe’s) was one of France’s heroes in the quarter-final against England (2-1), with both decisive assists for the goals scored by Aurélien Tchouaméni and Olivier Giroud. So, Antoine passed Thierry Henry for most assists with the French men’s national team (28). He is also currently the player with the most assists at the World Cup in Qatar, alongside Harry Kane and Bruno Fernandes (3).
Players such as Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini, renowned for their key passes over time, now admire Griezmann. And this performance came shortly after he set another important milestone in the history of Les Bleus, he broke the record for most consecutive matches (now he has 72). Antoine Griezmann hasn’t missed a game since 2017. It’s a remarkable achievement. An interesting detail, the last game he missed was also against England in June 2017, which France won 3-2.
Covered the absences of N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba
Of course, the records go in the background, especially after another victory against England, in a match whose stake is also the qualification to the semi-finals of a World Cup. And Griezmann donned the mantle of the generous man for his teammates, he had vision, pace, played intelligently all game, and caused immense damage to the opponent. He once again did his job very well in the role assigned by manager Didier Deschamps.
Antoine has been playing in Spain for 13 years, and by the time he moved to FC Barcelona in 2019, he had reached near stars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He was among the main goalscorers for Atletico during a period in which the club played in their second UEFA Champions League final in 2016 (94 goals scored in 180 appearances). He made his name as a second striker for Les Bleus and Atletico Madrid, but at the World Cup in Qatar he was reinvented by the coach. And Griezmann fully deserves his “World class player” label because he has also managed to excel as a midfielder, the man who creates more for his teammates and is seen less when the goals are counted.
With the absence of N’Golo Kanté, pundits said that France had lost more than a midfielder. That he lost his most important barometer. The one who created balance in the team through his capacity for effort, and positioning, a player who was present everywhere on the field, the link between attack and defense.
Now it can be said that France won Antoine as a midfielder as well. “I am quite free in this new role. I have to be the link between the defense and the forwards. I have three players in front of me, so more options, so it’s easier for me. I feel great physically, which helps me in this new position. I know the team needs me in a deeper, more central position. I think I’ve performed well so far, so I’m very happy,” said the “Little Prince”.
“Some might say it’s a bit of a sacrifice, but I say it again, he enjoys both intercepting a ball and building the play. His intelligence allows him to have a good balance,” Deschamps characterized his player.
The France international has replaced Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante with great success so far. He is already one of the most important players in the tournament for those who understand football. And a very solid reason why France is living at the highest levels the last week at the World Cup.