France’s Antoine Griezmann has yet to score as he toils away at this World Cup, but the attacking midfielder could not care less as he is enjoying his comeback at the highest level with the defending champions.
Griezmann, whose job is to link the midfield and the front line in a role where he defends as much as he goes forward, is a happy man on and off the pitch.
While Kylian Mbappe has scored five goals in Qatar to take his overall World Cup tally to nine and Olivier Giroud has surpassed Thierry Henry to become France’s all-time top scorer with 52 goals, Griezmann has been slaving away tirelessly in the engine room behind them.
“I had chances to score against Dennmark but I missed them. Maybe I’m not as close to the box as I used to be. I’m playing good games,” Griezmann, who has played a record 71 consecutive games with Les Bleus, told reporters.
“I’m still missing a goal but I don’t shoot 50 times a game and I’m not obsessing about it. The team need me in midfield to make the link between the defence and the attack. I’m very proud and happy.”
Coach Didier Deschamps kept his faith in Griezmann even when the playing was strruggling at Barcelona and got benched upon his return to Atletico Madrid last year.
“I owe him everything, so when I play I play for France, my team mates, but also for the coach,” said Griezmann, who ran no less than 11.3 kilometres on Sunday as France beat Poland 3-1 to set up a quarter-final clash with England on Saturday.
“Being well physically helps me a lot. There are no problems in my private life,” said Griezmann. “In my head I had tough moments at Barca and last year when I came back to Atletico. It was complicated, I had to make myself very small, I had to find myself, on and off the pitch.”
Having a super-fit – and happy – Griezmann has obviously made things easier for Deschamps, who has won 75% of his World Cup games as a coach.
“Every game, every move, is like a thank-you to him. I want to try to do everything I can to make him proud of his number 7,” Griezmann said.
“He will always try to find the best solution for the balance of the team. We find it, we found it, we have to continue on that. He trusts everyone, that’s a strength of his.”