Humiliated and disgraced in 2010, struggled in qualifying and dealt a huge Ribery blow days before the 2014 opener, things aren’t the brightest for French football. Their 2010 showing was nothing short of awful, and i’m not even talking about their on-pitch display. Player mutiny, disagreements with coaches, player sent back home, the runners-up from the previous edition had disgraced their nation.
Changes were brought in and a qualifying campaign was set in motion, not before the rebels were reprimanded though. Their luck saw them up against the Spaniards in qualifying, top spot most certainly lost and they didn’t make the play-offs an easy task. A Sakho brace eventually helped them to another World Cup, just about.
And just when things were looking up, another loss was suffered by Deschamps men with news coming in that second runner-up to the Ballon D’Or, Franck Ribery, will be out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. But one man’s loss is another man’s gain, with Remy Cabella the immediate beneficiary being called into the side, while Antoine Griezmann the biggest winner seeing his chances at the first-team double up over-night.
It’s no less than what the Real Sociedad man has deserved, who along with Carlos Vela, has been fantastic for the Spanish side despite their failure to qualify for the Champions League again. Right from the start of the season, all the way back at the Stade Gerland when Griezmann scored a quite remarkable over-head kick in the Champions League qualifiers, his value has just been on the up.
He scored 16 in the league, while adding his cup goals takes his season tally to 20, for a player playing on the left-wing for a fairly above average side, that record speaks volumes of Griezmann’s abilities and influence on the side. His exploits with Sociedad included a run of 12 goals in 12 games (14 in 15 if we were to extend that), and this is when note was taken about Griezmann, though the quality was always there to see.
His performances finally led to call-up with a debut against Netherlands in March, and he now comes into the World Cup having scored three goals in the last three fixtures immediately prior to the start of the tournament including a brace in the 8-0 triumph over Jamaica. And just like that Griezmann went from an unknown in the national set-up to a deserved call-up and a lucky break that now sees him as an important component of France’s attack.
Directly replacing Ribery, Griezmann is more than adept at playing the role the Bayern man has. His explosive pace and quick feet will help on the counter, but his insistence on cutting inside is particularly lethal while his tendency to get into the box can easily see him partner a striker (preferably in a three man attack).
With a new generation of youngsters coming through for France, Griezmann represents the older of these starlets with the likes of Pogba, Varane & Digne all making the squad while excellent individuals in Umtiti, Laporte & Zouma waiting for their chance. If Griezmann can impress at this World Cup, he’ll grow into France’s main weapon for the next few seasons as he still is only 23-yrs-old.
Ribery’s own career took a peculiar path where after promise in France, a move to Turkey seemed to put him into European obscurity but a move to Marsellie and eventual call-up to the 2006 World Cup after having made his debut just few weeks earlier was the turning point for Franck. He came in as an unknown to the rest of the footballing World, but everyone knew Franck Ribery, the man with a scar, once the tournament in Germany was done. There was no World Cup trophy, but there was a lot more that Ribery could take from Germany than any of his aging team-mates could.
His exploits in 2006 led to that move to Bayern, where we now see the man winning league titles and making European Cup final appearances with his career culminating at it’s peak few months earlier where it was officially announced that only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are better players than Franck.
Griezmann has already replaced Ribery, both in the side and it the fans’ hearts. His terrific La Liga season is enough to see him earn a big move and one does look imminent with North London being mentioned constantly. But similar heroics as Ribery 8 years back and Griezmann can see a similar career evolve. His versatility in attack allows to grow into much more than a pacy winger, and what better stage to showcase that than the one that faces him now.
Expectations, hopes and pressure are at an all time low, but the French tend to alternate their World Cup performances with a good showing in 2014 due. Blessed with an easy group, navigating into the second round will be no issue whatsoever with my personal expectation that the French will emerge as one of the leading goal-scorers from the group stage. How far they go remains to be seen, but the impact Griezmann can have on this tournament may be unparalleled among any other similar hopefuls. It all starts off with Honduras, and a month later, everyone may well be singing praises of Antoine Griezmann.
This article was written by Sami Faizullah. Editor-in-chief of outsideoftheboot.com