Griezmann thriving in new role for Les Blues

France's Griezmann (L) is pursued by England's midfielder Jude Bellingham during their quarterfinal clash. PHOTO/AFP 

What you need to know:

Griezmann's importance to his country is demonstrated by the fact he has played in France's past 72 games, a run going back to a friendly against England on June 2017, when he was an unused substitute. The previous record was Patrick Vieira's 44 consecutive matches.

Three months ago Antoine Griezmann was a regular substitute amid a contract farce - now there is no stopping him in his second great World Cup, but this time from a new position.

The focus has been on the goals of Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud for France, but before Saturday's quarter-final meeting, England manager Gareth Southgate said Griezmann was "a phenomenal player".

And the Atletico Madrid player, reinvented as a midfielder in Didier Deschamps' team, proved Southgate right by assisting goals for Aurelien Tchouameni and Giroud in Les Bleus' 2-1 win.

Griezmann, now 31, was named the third-best player at the 2018 World Cup - and could he go even further this time?

He and France are just two wins - starting with Wednesday's semi-final against underdogs Morocco - from becoming the first team since Brazil in 1962 to win consecutive World Cups.

What's new?

Griezmann's career has been spent on the wing, up front, or just behind a striker in the number 10 role.

But with first-choice pair Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante injured, Griezmann has had to play in central midfield in Qatar - and it has been a rousing success.

"I ask different things of him," said boss Deschamps, a World Cup-winning midfielder himself in 1998.

"There is no sacrifice on his part, because he is so generous that he takes pleasure both when he touches the ball and when he passes.

"He will certainly score fewer goals, but he loves to tackle and recover the ball. With his left foot, he is capable of beautiful things and can shoot the set-pieces rather well.

"He has everything to play deeper: the vision, the work-rate, the touch, the energy, the intelligence."

Griezmann has assisted three goals - a joint high with Portugal's Bruno Fernandes and Harry Kane of England. And he has created 17 chances, including six big chances - both tournament highs.

Including corners, he has played 41 passes into the box - a joint high - and won possession in the final third six times, which is the equal second highest at this World Cup.

At the 2018 tournament in Russia, Griezmann ranked joint first for assists, but was 11th for chances created. He was seventh for balls into the box and joint 19th for winning possession in the final third.

The former Barcelona and Real Sociedad forward said last week: "I am quite free in this new role. I must be the link between the defence and the forwards.

"I have three players in front of me [Mbappe, Giroud and Ousmane Dembele], so more options - so it is easier for me.

"I owe him [Deschamps] everything in the national team. I give everything for France - for the shirt, but also for him. And I am trying to do everything I can so he keeps trusting me. Every move, every game is like a 'thank you' I am sending him. I want him to be proud of me."

Griezmann, Juventus' Adrien Rabiot and Real Madrid man Tchouameni have been the midfield three in all of France's games bar the dead rubber against Tunisia, where they put out a weakened team.

Griezmann is the only one not to score. In fact, he has only had six shots, compared with 22 four years ago.

French football journalist Juliens Laurens said: "The reinvention of Antoine Griezmann as a number eight, patrolling midfield to run games, has been a great move by Deschamps.

"He has been outstanding, creating more chances than anybody else in this World Cup so far, while recovering an average of five balls per game."

Third great tournament

There is a strong argument Griezmann's record at international level has been underrated.

His performances in Russia 2018 were so good that, despite Mbappe stealing all the headlines - sound familiar? - Griezmann won the Bronze Ball, the official trophy for the third-best player in the tournament.

If he manages to finish in the top three for the Golden Ball again he will join Argentina icon Diego Maradona and Brazil legend Ronaldo as the only players to do that twice (the trophy was introduced in 1982).

Griezmann, in a more advanced role then, also won the 2018 Silver Boot with four goals, behind only England captain Kane.

And he has not just shone at World Cups.

At Euro 2016, he won the Golden Boot with six goals - twice as many as anyone else - and was named player of the tournament.

His importance to his country is demonstrated by the fact he has played in France's past 72 games, a run going back to a friendly against England on June 2017, when he was an unused substitute. The previous record was Patrick Vieira's 44 consecutive matches.

Since Griezmann's France debut in 2014, he has scored 42 goals - behind only Giroud and Thierry Henry - and made 28 assists, a reported national record, in 115 caps.

His major tournament record is 11 goals and seven assists in 28 games.

Club career 

Griezmann has spent his entire career playing in Spain, for Real Sociedad, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona - scoring 170 league goals in 474 games.

However, he has an unfortunate record of never having won La Liga, despite playing for Atletico and Barca since 2014.

Barcelona have won the title four times and Atletico once in that period - but Griezmann was at the other club each time.

He joined Atleti twice the summer just after they won the title, in 2014 from Real Sociedad and 2021 on loan from Barcelona.

Griezmann scored 35 goals in 102 games in his two seasons at the Nou Camp following his £107m move from Atletico - the sixth biggest transfer ever - but it never really worked out and he rejoined Atleti on loan as Barca cut costs.

At the start of this season, he was affected by a bizarre contractual situation that meant he appeared as a substitute for fewer than 30 minutes in eight of Atletico's first 11 games.

That was because Atletico did not want to activate a clause that meant they would have to sign him for 40m euros if he played more than 45 minutes in more than 50% of their matches.

In October, they came to a new agreement and re-signed him on a permanent basis for reportedly half that fee.

Griezmann has scored just six goals for Atletico in the first half of the season and when he goes back it will be interesting to see if Diego Simeone is tempted to play him in this new role.

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