Darting goes on. Main tackle. timely blocking. becomes calm. Antoine Griezmann did it all for France on Wednesday (14 December), and now he is on his way to his second World Cup final.
Griezmann had exceptional moments in both penalty areas – and in all parts of the field, in fact – to help France beat an impressive Morocco 2-0 in the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup 2022 at the Al Bayt Stadium. It was a competitive showcase from a talented player who has reinvented himself in this year’s World Cup. And now he will try to deny his former Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi a maiden World Cup title on Sunday.
Griezmann played as a winger at the 2014 World Cup, then was a key scoring threat in France’s 2018 title win. He is now an all-purpose midfielder who creates chances for his teammates and clears away opposition threats.
Paul Pogba praised on his Instagram account, writing “Griezmankante” after the final whistle. Pogba and N’Golo Kante, a tireless ball recovery specialist, were the midfield heart of France’s last title-winning side and their absence in Qatar through injury has placed more responsibility on the 31-year-old Griezmann.
It was an older, wiser Griezmann who reflected after being named man of the match on how this semi-final victory felt different than four years earlier, when Belgium were beaten 1-0. Griezmann said, ‘I cried against Belgium. “I feel like I’m more focused now. I’m already focused on the final on Sunday. I try to keep my feet on the ground. I’m more composed.
Enjoy their Hero of the Day display presented by @Mahindra_Auto#framar #Qatar2022 #worldsgreatestshow #FIFAWConJioCinema #FIFAWConSports18 pic.twitter.com/G7UOQ42HCa– JioCinema (@JioCinema) December 14, 2022
His perfectly timed run beyond the Moroccan defense took the ball into the penalty area which led to Wednesday’s opening goal. Theo Hernandez was the final beneficiary in the fifth minute. When Morocco put France under severe pressure in the second half, Griezmann responded with a tackle, header and block. All their boundless energy was needed before substitute Randall Kolo Muani’s immediate impact – and immediate goal – sealed the victory in the 79th.
“Remarkable,” France right back Jules Kunde said of Griezmann. “He plays hard, blocks holes and then every time he touches the ball he tries to light up the game.”
When it was over, Griezmann slowly raised both arms and went down the field to hug defender Ibrahima Konate, who had been a major deterrent to Morocco’s frequent attacks. Griezmann then went to console some of his opponents, finding goalkeeper Yassine Bouno, who also plays in the Spanish league.
Griezmann has become a perfect example of how France has evolved after 10 years under coach Didier Deschamps. The team reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2014 and then played in the 2016 European Championship final, losing to Portugal at home in Paris. The French followed it up with a World Cup title in 2018, and they will get their third win in their history against Argentina at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday.
The backbone of this team – goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, center back Raphael Varane, Griezmann and striker Olivier Giroud – has been a constant presence. Embappé’s explosive pace and goals entered the mix in 2017 and brought glory to the second half of the Deschamps era.
There may yet be more to add to an already impressive list of accomplishments on Sunday.
(With PTI inputs)