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In Focus: Griezmann the key to France unlocking Morocco
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Alan Feehely
France star Antoine Griezmann has been one of the standout performers at the World Cup
France star Antoine Griezmann has been one of the standout performers at the World Cup

Antoine Griezmann has quietly been one of France’s most influential players — and he will be needed as Les Bleus lock horns with giant-killers Morocco for a place in the World Cup final. 

The focus will likely be on Kylian Mbappe but the Atletico Madrid star is arguably of equal importance to the side. 

We take a look at the role Griezmann has played so far in Qatar and how he can help his country earn the chance to defend their crown.

A deeper position

Griezmann frequently plays up front for Atleti but that has not been the case in Qatar. 

The 31-year-old is being utilised in a deeper role — ahead of the double-pivot of Aurelien Tchouameni and Adrien Rabiot. 

Paul Pogba was unable to make it to the Middle East due to injury, so Griezmann has been operating as a playmaker and shouldering his side’s creative burden. 

He is doing a fine job completing 198 passes (84.98% accuracy) with a team-high 71 into the final third.

Antoine Griezmann primarily operates in the right half-space for France
Antoine Griezmann primarily operates in the right half-space for France

Capable on and off the ball

No player at the World Cup has provided more than Griezmann's three assists — tied with Lionel Messi, Bruno Fernandes and Harry Kane — and the Frenchman is also ranked first and second respectively, when it comes to big chances (six) and chances (17) created.

The veteran playmaker works diligently without the ball, making the top two in the tournament so far for possessions won in the attacking third (six).

France boss Didier Deschamps revealed: "He has had a great tournament. 

"He is playing a different role in this World Cup and it suits him very well. With his left foot he is so gifted and creates chances for others. He is always thinking of the team. 

"He is extremely hard-working but has been an elite player for 10 years now.

"He has had some tough times, as every player does, but he is mentally strong. Like all good players he plays his best against good teams."

Antoine Griezmann is the joint-top assister at World Cup 2022
Antoine Griezmann is the joint-top assister at World Cup 2022


Perhaps one of the reasons Griezmann has been so dominant in Qatar is the fact that he is well-rested. 

The Real Sociedad academy product returned to Atleti in the summer of 2021 after two seasons with Barcelona — initially on a two-year loan deal. 

Los Rojiblancos triggered the option to buy in October but a dispute between the clubs until that point had limited Griezmann to 30 minutes per game for the majority of this season. 

Despite Atleti's collective struggles, Griezmann has contributed five goals and three assists in 769 minutes in LaLiga — he is their top scorer alongside Alvaro Morata and has also created a team-high 23 chances.

Staying humble

Griezmann has displayed real humility following his spell with Barcelona. 

Many supporters were angered by the manner of his move to the Camp Nou in the summer of 2019 and the Europa League winner never seemed to settle in Catalonia — struggling to find his place in a team laden with attacking talent and led by Messi. 

Speaking after scoring for Atleti against Athletic Bilbao last October, Griezmann expressed his happiness at returning to the Spanish capital on a permanent deal and admitted feeling regret about his departure. 

He said: "I am very proud that I was able to sign and be able to play my part. 

"At the end of the day, I apologise. 

"I know people want to hear it from me — I apologise for the hurt I may have caused people. But the biggest forgiveness I ask for is on the pitch, giving my all for the team on nights like this."

Taming the Atlas Lions

Antoine Griezmann is France's creator-in-chief
Antoine Griezmann is France's creator-in-chief

Griezmann's ingenuity will be key for France as they prepare to face Morocco in the World Cup semi-final. 

The Atlas Lions boast the meanest defence in Qatar — conceding only one goal — and have proven to be extremely challenging to break down. 

The North African outfit set up in a low block and defend aggressively, not conceding an inch of space to their opponents — no matter how illustrious. 

The likes of Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele will not be able to stretch their legs much in Wednesday's encounter, meaning Griezmann's ability to operate in pockets of space and break lines will be vital.


World CupFranceMoroccoAtletico Madrid
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