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Tuesday 20 November 2018

Antoine: How we win will not give France Les Bleus

Griezmann hits back at bitter Belgian’s ‘anti-football’ claims

DELIGHT: Antoine Griezmann falls to his knees after France had got the better of Belgium to reach the World Cup Final. Photo: Anton Vaganov/Reuters
DELIGHT: Antoine Griezmann falls to his knees after France had got the better of Belgium to reach the World Cup Final. Photo: Anton Vaganov/Reuters

Antoine Griezmann has hit back at criticism of France playing “anti-football” under Didier Deschamps and insists it does not matter how Les Bleus go about trying to beat Croatia in the World Cup final tomorrow.

Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and captain Eden Hazard both lamented the way France approached their semi-final clash with their near neighbours in St Petersburg on Tuesday.

A second-half header from Samuel Umtiti from Griezmann’s whipped free kick proved enough for a 1-0 win, despite Deschamps’ side conceding large amounts of possession to a Belgian side who had impressed in knocking out Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Atletico Madrid forward Griezmann, however, maintains France will do whatever it takes to lift the World Cup for a second time in Moscow tomorrow.

“Thibaut Courtois, he played at Atletico, he was a Spanish champion. With Chelsea, does he believe he is playing the football of Barcelona?” Griezmann said at a press conference, broadcast by the France Football Federation.

“I don’t care how. I want a second star to be on this shirt, and if I have the star, I do not care about the game we have done.”

Collective

Griezmann believes France’s progress has been built on a collective team effort throughout the group.

“We thought we needed to be a solid block, hard to beat. It is improved over time,” the 27-year-old said.

“We know that we can be offensive at any moment, but the defence remains our base.”

Croatia needed extra time in each of their knockout matches, coming through 2-1 in their semi-final against England on Wednesday night.

BIG SAM: France defender Samuel Umtiti celebrates scoring what proved to be the only goal of the game in Tuesday’s semi-final. Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP
BIG SAM: France defender Samuel Umtiti celebrates scoring what proved to be the only goal of the game in Tuesday’s semi-final. Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Griezmann expects coach Deschamps, who won the World Cup as a player in 1998, to be ready for the challenge ahead at the Luzhniki Stadium.

“He knows the way. We believe in him, we trust him,” the forward said.

“He prepares the matches well and has made strong choices in this competition, especially with Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez. His choices are paying off, and I hope it will continue.”

France could be set for a weekend of celebration, with the final following on from today’s Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees.

A massive fan-zone around the Parc du Champ de Mars, near the Eiffel Tower, will show the biggest game in football on giant screens, as an expectant nation seeks a repeat of their triumph on home soil 20 years ago.

Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi should be involved in the final after being forced off against Belgium following a heavy collision with Hazard.

Matuidi, 31, reckons victory – if France achieve it – should be dedicated to the whole nation.

“The diversity that we have in this team is in the image of our beautiful country, France. We proudly represent France. For us, that’s superb,” he said.

“The good atmosphere prevailing in the group is reflected on the field. We fight for each other – it’s our great strength.

“We want to make efforts for others and this has brought us to play in the final.

“Even those who play less are happy for others. This is the state of mind of a family that flows in the team.”

  • WORLD CUP FINAL: FRANCE v CROATIA, Tomorrow RTÉ2/BBC1/ITV (KO 4.0)

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