DOHA, Qatar (AP)Antoine Griezmann is relishing his new role helping others at the World Cup rather than worrying about scoring for France.
Griezmann is third on his country’s all-time list of scorers with 42 goals, but in Qatar he is playing in a right midfield role in a 4-3-3 formation and has yet to score. Heading into the round of 16 against Poland on Sunday, he’s not stressed about it.
”I’m not wracking my brains figuring out how to score, the team needs me more at the heart of the game,” Griezmann said Friday. ”I enjoy being the link between midfield and attack. I’m more in a role where I drop deep and try to help others.”
While other players might complain about being shifted around, it’s not a sacrifice for Griezmann, who is playing in his third straight World Cup and is set to make his 114th international appearance.
”I’m here to do what the coach asks me. I want to be proud of the jersey and make the coach proud,” he said. ”I want to make things as easy as possible for my teammates. I’m in very good shape physically, and when that happens I feel better in my mind.”
Griezmann has always been close with Deschamps, who stood by him when he lost form last season. If anything, their bond has grown stronger.
”He is a very trusting coach and that’s a strength of his,” Griezmann said. ”He likes to talk with the players and to know how you’re feeling.”
Griezmann last scored for Les Bleus in a friendly against Kazakhstan last November.
Griezmann thought he had ended that drought on Wednesday when he drilled in a shot in the eighth and final minute of stoppage time in the 1-0 loss to Tunisia. Referee Matthew Conger ruled it out following a video review.
The relaxed Griezmann took it in stride.
”I think I was the one of the first players to ever have a goal ruled out by VAR,” Griezmann recalled, smiling. ”You can’t celebrate how you would like to, but we were already qualified.”
The French soccer federation filed a complaint with FIFA because of Griezmann’s disallowed goal.
Like Griezmann, forward Kylian Mbappe also scored four goals at the 2018 World Cup – with both scoring in the final. While Griezmann’s happy to step out of the limelight, it’s simply not possible for Mbappe.
”Kylian’s not the same player or personality as he is now,” Griezmann said. ”Everything he does will be scrutinized by the media. But he’s flawless.”
Griezmann is learning how to combine better with Mbappe, setting him up with a cross for Mbappe’s winning goal in a 2-1 win against Denmark in France’s second group game.
”I’m starting to understand what he wants more,” Griezmann said.
While Mbappe is only 23 and could play at two more World Cups, the 31-year-old Griezmann joked that he might not be fit enough to play at the next one in 2026.
”Maybe I’ll have put on a few kilos in weight,” Griezmann said.
Griezmann’s unselfish attitude at this year’s tournament has been praised by others in the squad.
”Griezmann is a top player. He’s playing in midfield but he’s still just as good,” France central defender William Saliba said. ”I hope he keeps setting up goals, and scoring valid ones.”
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