Antoine Griezmann is ready for Lionel Messi’s ‘totally different proposal’ after inspiring France to another World Cup final.
Griezmann produced a man-of-the-match performance as defending champions France ended Morocco’s historic run to the semis with a 2-0 win that set up a showdown with Argentina in Sunday’s final.
The 31-year-old insists France will be ready to defend their crown against Messi and co, revealing they will start drawing up a game plan immediately on Thursday.
“Any team with Messi is a totally different proposition,” Griezmann said in his post-match press conference. “We’ve seen almost every game in this World Cup, we’ve seen Argentina play, we know how they play, they’re a tough team to play and a team in great shape.
“Of course it’s not just Messi, they have a strong team around him so we know it’s going to be a tough game. We know they’re going to have a lot of support from the crowd. So we’re going to get to work tomorrow, talk about it, see what to focus on and where we can hurt them and defend against them, we will be well prepared.
Griezmann redefines his role in stunning fashion
Sky Sports’ Jack Wilkinson:
Antoine Griezmann’s redeployment at the heart of France’s bid for World Cup glory in Qatar has been hailed as a stroke of genius even before a ball was kicked at Al Bayt Stadium. His last mesmerizing performance, dismantling Morocco’s historic run to the semi-finals, only reinforced such an assessment.
Morocco had beaten Belgium, Spain and Portugal in a series of daring performances en route to the last four. Their effort would even see the Atlas Lions temporarily halt Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud’s pursuit of the Golden Boot, but their performance, fiery as it was, simply couldn’t explain Griezmann.
After injuries to Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante before the World Cup, Deschamps’ hand was forced. In an apparent move of desperation, the world champions looked to Griezmann to fill the chasm left vacant by two stars from their triumph in Russia four years prior. It was presented as a gamble but turned into a masterstroke.
How Griezmann, a big-goal scorer who won the Player of the Tournament award and Golden Boot at Euro 2016, and inspired France to glory at the 2018 World Cup, became a midfielder box-to-box pitch, as capable defensively as he is in attack, is the remarkable tale of France’s progress to another final.
Against Morocco, Griezmann created twice as many chances as any other player on the pitch and was instrumental in setting up Theo Hernandez’s opener with a superb pivot behind. But his repeated efficiency in defense was equally crucial, with three clearances, two tackles and two interceptions keeping Morocco at bay throughout.
Mbappe and Lionel Messi will naturally dominate the build-up to Sunday’s World Cup final. But if France are to keep the crown that Griezmann helped secure in Russia, you can be sure his fingerprints will be everywhere again, albeit in a different form.
“It’s Antoine Griezmann’s show”
Sky Sports News senior reporter Melissa Reddy:
“Is the heir to the throne, Kylian Mbappe, who already has a World Cup title to his name, or the player who has been the best in the world for as long as we can remember, Lionel Messi, who not have this world title Cup status, emerge victorious?
“It will be a huge battle between Mbappe and Messi, but the final between France and Argentina is much more than that.
“I’ve been following Argentina and France since their very first training sessions in Qatar and the contrast between them is actually quite incredible.
“In Argentina’s first session, the whole press kit was about Messi’s great chance to win the World Cup. They had that feeling and were on a 35-game winning streak. There was a sense of calm but of course they had this jolt from Saudi Arabia.
“There are times when they don’t look so good, but Messi takes games by the scruff of the neck for them and does things that only Messi can do.
“Then you look at France and in their first session there were journalists saying that there were too many players missing for Didier Deschamps’ team to mount a challenge. The core of the team was gutted by a wound.
“However, after a few games they started to understand. The feeling of unity in this team is remarkable, and even though England dominated them for long periods and Morocco played even better than the England against France, there was never really a feeling of real danger for them, they are so calm, so calm and they know what they have to do.
“I know everyone wants me to talk about Mbappe and build the Mbappe vs. Messi battle in the final, but that’s been Griezmann’s show. He’s been France’s standout player.
“He was absolutely everywhere on the pitch against Morocco. Everything they built in terms of attack came from him. Some of their last defenders were him. He’s an unreal player.”
Deschamps anticipates a close World Cup final
Head coach Didier Deschamps will become the first man in history to win the World Cup as a player and twice as a manager if France beat Argentina in Sunday’s final in a match that , according to the 54-year-old, will be determined by the fairest of margins.
“I’m always proud when I achieve such a result,” said Deschamps. “It’s great to qualify for the final on Sunday. It was not an easy victory, but we showed our quality, our experience and our team spirit. We had to dig deep, even in the difficult moments of the match, and as a coach I am very proud of my players.”
In Sunday’s World Cup final, Deschamps continued: “Lionel Messi was in scintillating form at the start of the tournament. Four years ago [in Russia] things were different, he was actually playing as a centre-forward against us which took us by surprise. Now playing behind the centre-forward, he wins the ball a lot, runs with it, is in great form and is, of course, one of the greatest players in the world.
“We saw a very strong Argentinian team against Croatia, but in previous games they weren’t always so strong. We weren’t perfect against England or Morocco, at the end of the first half-time and at the start of the second half. They put a lot of pressure on us, and we could have played better.
“But in a final against Argentina, both teams face a better team than they have played so far in the tournament, and we have two teams with a lot of quality. It will be up to the key players to make the difference, and maybe the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win the game. Whoever does that will win the game.
Benzema will make a sensational comeback in the final?
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Deschamps refused to rule out Karim Benzema causing a stir in Sunday’s World Cup final.
The Ballon D’or winner picked up a thigh injury during France’s first training session in Qatar but Deschamps opted not to call up a replacement meaning the Real Madrid striker remains in the France squad and could be available for selection if deemed suitable. sufficient.
During his post-match press conference tonight, Deschamps was asked: “There is a report today that Benzema could return to Qatar. First of all, is it true? And there is Is there any possibility you could use him for a few minutes, if you needed him?”
An exasperated Deschamps smiled and then replied, “I don’t really want to answer that question. Next question. I apologize.”