Antoine Griezmann Handsome

FEW ever heard of 31-year-old Frenchman Antoine Griezmann.

He always played a low-key at Qatar’s World Cup. 

But rightly so, he was at the centre of the praise on Wednesday night after a sensational performance in France’s 2-0 win over a brave Morocco side in their World Cup semi-final.

The midfielder produced a brilliantly elusive run to set up France’s first goal after just five minutes, and was a menace for the Atlas Lions all evening as he continued to excel in a more combative role than he has often played.

TOP CLASS SHOW

Former England legend striker Alan Shearer, who anchors the BBC coverage of the Qatar tournament, felt Griezmann was the best player on the pitch, as he explained: “he was man of the match for me”. 

He added: “You’ve got to give credit to the way (coach) Didier Deschamps has used him. He’s a super talent, a really clever player who reads the game really well. When you think of the players they’ve got missing, him and Aurelien Tchouameni were fantastic on the defensive work.’

Likewise, Didier Drogba was also impressed by the changes Griezmann had made to play a deeper role, saying he “looked more like N’Golo Kante”, but was still able to move like a true forward as “it’s like cycling, you never forget it!”

NOT SCORED SO FAR

Ironically, Griezmann has not scored a single goal at the World Cup in Qatar but has created several chances while also dropping deep and breaking up play.

“I feel good in my legs, in my mind…the work I did on vacation and later with Atletico did me good, it was what I needed. I try to help the team as much as possible, as always,” Griezmann said.

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There was also praise from former England star defender Rio Ferdinand, who called him “the best defensive player in the tournament” before adding: ‘We could show great clips of him getting forward and creating things but we can probably show you as many clips of his defending.’

It has been a remarkable tournament for Griezmann giving his peculiar club situation, which has seen him playing just 30 minutes in each game as Atletico Madrid look to avoid triggering a sell-on clause in his contract.

FOR SUNDAY FINAL

With their star midfielder pulling strings behind an explosive front three, France will face Argentina in the final on Sunday.

It may be billed as a superlative chance for Lionel Messi to confirm his status as the greatest player in history, but the game will also be a chance for the champions to become just the second side in history to win back to back World Cups.

At 35, this World Cup is almost certain to be Messi’s last chance of winning the prestigious honour. Griezmann knows this and is concerned about facing his former Barcelona team-mate. He said: “When a team has Leo with them, it’s completely different.”

Griezmann, who is being deployed in a deeper role by France boss Deschamps, insisted he was impressed by Morocco after Wednesday’s game. Yet the Atletico Madrid forward is expecting a much tougher tie against Argentina on Sunday.

Will he now get another chance to show his skills on Sunday and steal the big show?

* Suresh Nair is an award-winning sports journalist who is also a qualified international coach and international referee instructor.

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