Tuesday 17 July 2018

Antoine Griezmann aiming high as France show different styles

The France and Atletico Madrid star now has three goals and two man-of-the-match prizes in Russia but he and his team-mates want more.

France star Antoine Griezmann has ‘hope’ tattooed on his fingers and his form certainly gives Les Blues cause for optimism with Belgium to come on Tuesday (Natacha Pisarenko/PA Images)
France star Antoine Griezmann has ‘hope’ tattooed on his fingers and his form certainly gives Les Blues cause for optimism with Belgium to come on Tuesday (Natacha Pisarenko/PA Images)

By Matt Slater, Press Association Chief Sports Reporter

Antoine Griezmann believes France’s flexibility will be crucial to their hopes of winning a second World Cup title.

France’s 2-0 quarter-final win over Uruguay set up a semi-final against the winners of Friday’s second game, Brazil and Belgium, and the European neighbours will meet in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday with a place in next Sunday’s final at stake.

The Atletico Madrid star scored one goal and set up another during the last-eight match in Nizhny Novgorod and was named man of the match for the second time at Russia 2018.

France largely controlled the game but only managed two shots on target and there was a hint of criticism of the team’s tactics in the post-match press conference, particularly as this more defensive-minded display came after the excitement of their 4-3 victory over Argentina in the previous round.

But Griezmann said France were mindful of Uruguay’s threat and had more than one way of winning a game.

“I don’t think we have a style that is set,” the 27-year-old said.

“We observe what happens during the match and we have people who know how to manage the game, they know when to stop and when to move in attack.

“When I have the ball, I try to take the game to where we want it to be.”

His coach Didier Deschamps echoed this sentiment, saying his team had been disciplined and strong in defence, but admitted that his side “can play better”, especially in attack.

France’s first goal came when Raphael Varane rose highest to meet Griezmann’s free-kick with a glancing header.

Speaking to reporters after the game, the Real Madrid centre-back, who has been one of the best defenders at the tournament, said: “We knew that set-pieces were their strong point but this time it was ours.”

France’s second goal just after the hour, Griezmann’s third in Russia, was the result of a terrible mistake by Uruguay’s usually dependable Fernando Muslera.

The France striker shot powerfully from 25 yards out but it was right at the goalkeeper and should have been a straightforward save. But he appeared to be unsure whether to catch it or punch it away and ended up doing neither.

His coach Oscar Tabarez refused to blame him after the game, saying: “I told all my players after the match that they can be very proud and to keep their heads high.

“We all saw that it was not a very common goal but Muslera has been a very important pillar in all our work up until now.”

The goal’s significance was indisputable, though, as Uruguay had started the second half well.

France left-back Lucas Hernandez, another Atletico Madrid player, said: “The second goal killed them mentally and we knew we had a place in the semi-final in hand.”

The 71-year-old Tabarez has been in charge of Uruguay since 2006 and while he was clearly disappointed with the result, he dismissed suggestions that it represented anything more significant than one team losing to another that played better on the day.

“There is no need to be overly dramatic about it, the better team won but Uruguay is still one of the most important football nations and what happened today does not change that,” he said.

Press Association

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