World Cup 2022: Antoine Griezmann, the essential engine of the France team



On the bench, he laughs. Hilarious, Antoine Griezmann. It is better to take things lightly in this way by witnessing the poor spectacle of his small comrades in tenure (nine entrants) for this match without much at stake against Tunisia, Wednesday, November 30. So he laughs, “Mr. Antoine”, with Kylian Mbappé and the others, perhaps chambering, from their observation post, these rather lost Blues bis.

And then after seventy-three minutes and a Tunisian goal against an amorphous French defense, Antoine Griezmann enters. On the ground, the light is slowly returning. In a few well-felt passes, in a few happy diversions, Antoine Griezmann still appears as an essential asset at the heart of the game. The story is even on the verge of ending well, with in extremis a volley goal, his 43e in selection, the one he has been looking for in vain for a year. But no. First validated, it is refused after recourse to video arbitration, for a questionable offside.

“Peace and Work”

Not enough to start, after the match and leaving the locker room, the current good mood of an Antoine Griezmann commenting: We were quite nice because we had already qualified, we didn’t get too upset. » No, he does not get angry, Antoine Griezmann, rather playful since the start of this World Cup, to joke more often than not. His credo for the future? “Peace and Work”. The program suits him well. He hardly applied himself to anything else in recent years, when the situation was no longer really smiling.

In Barcelona for two years (2019-2021), the parenthesis is disenchanted. Not statistically (102 games and 35 goals), but because the atmosphere is never good in Catalonia, just like the well-established certainties about his true role. What to say about a collaboration on which returns after the fact the Barcelona president Joan Laporta by conceding: “He was not the player we needed” ? The Catalan leader makes it clear that the player had “always had a great attitude”but the consolation is small.

70 consecutive selections

The return to his favorite club, Atlético Madrid, in September 2021, was to heal the wounds. Except that the clauses of the loan then granted by Barcelona, ​​with whom the contract ran until 2024, weighed down the rebirth of the French for a long time. To avoid an overinflated buyout option (40 million euros) after two years on loan, Atlético must limit their playing time. The case was not resolved until last October, a month before the World Cup , Barcelona agreeing to reduce its claims (to 20 million euros) and Antoine Griezmann to lower his annual salary by more than 30% (to 8 million euros).

These setbacks in the club, Antoine Griezmann can partly forget them in the France team. Didier Deschamps is always in support of his midfielder, who is not for nothing with 70 consecutive selections, a record. But the yield in blue has steadily decreased over the past two years. And especially since the return of Karim Benzema. A question of placement, of liaison on the ground less obvious than with Olivier Giroud. Floating, Antoine Griezmann?

On the ground, we hear it more

The circumstances of the World Cup in Qatar changed the situation. The packages of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté led Didier Deschamps to reposition his player to secure his midfield, making Antoine Griezmann a torchbearer more than an attacking number 10. The coach knows he can count on the man’s intelligence and adaptability. Who suddenly has to run even more (11 km per game on average) and probably agree to score less.

“There is no sacrifice on his part, because he is so generous that he takes pleasure when he touches the ball (…) and he loves being on the recovery and tackling”, underlines Didier Deschamps after the victory against Denmark (2-1). Indeed, the Mâconnais does not balk at the job, at ease in the defensive register as in the organization of the game. On the ground, we hear him more, to replace, to motivate his people. Always after Denmark, boasting “exceptional effort” of his teammates, he says to himself ” very happy “. It shows. And it is with him that the France team laughs.

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Poland in eighth

It will therefore be Poland that the Blues will find in the round of 16 on Sunday, December 4, and Robert Lewandowski’s teammates owe it just as much to Saudi Arabia as to their performance. Because it was on goal difference and thanks to the narrow defeat of the Saudis against Mexico (1-2) that the Poles won their qualification after a poor match against Argentina (0-2), finally first in the group . Without having framed any shot in 90 minutes, the Poles avoided the correction thanks to their goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who notably stopped a penalty from Lionel Messi. They will have to work differently to imitate their elders of 1982, the only ones to have beaten the Blues in official competition, to then win third place in the World Cup in Spain (3-2).

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