Argentina will face France in the World Cup final on Sunday. Lionel Messi is out to have one last dance, one final attempt at the glory that has eluded him for years, the elixir that will take him beyond the mortal. But the final test will not be easy for him. An adamant France team awaits them in the Lusail stadium as the Blues try to defend their title. As the spotlight naturally shifts to Kylian Mbappe, one man lingers in the shadows, pulling strings from the midfield.
Playing in a new role, Antoine Griezmann has been the puppeteer of the French show. Unlike in Atletico Madrid, where he was mostly deployed as a winger, Griezmann is given the nod to wander around wherever he wants, deciding the pace of the game, and eventually the result.
No other player has created more chances at the World Cup than Antoine Griezmann. The version he has brought to the World Cup almost makes a mockery of himself in La Liga. Therefore, he will have a key role to play in determining the winner. So we look at his stats from this World Cup to understand why stopping Griezmann will be crucial to Argentina’s chances of lifting the trophy.
Didier Deschamps gave Griezmann complete freedom to wander around the field, and it paid off wonderfully for France. Griezmann’s heat map, which coincidentally forms the shape of a heart in the attacking half, literally and metaphorically sums up his value to the team. He engaged in an average of 72.83 actions per game, winning 61.9% of them. He has also made around 2.5 dribbles per game and keeps the play going with his slick movement.
Griezmann is the metronome of the side and decides the pace at which France plays. He plays like a box-to-box midfielder, combining with other players, accelerating the play when needed, and finding a progressive pass at every opportunity. Sometimes he whips in crosses and passes into the box, while sometimes he arrives there. The 31-year-old enjoys an average of 2.5 touches in the penalty box and even scored against Tunisia in the final minute, which was unfortunately ruled out due to offside.
High work rate
The new role that Griezmann has taken demands some extra dimension to his usual role as a forward, and Griezmann makes it seem like he has been doing this forever. It would be a crime not to mention his pressing and work rate. He is more than willing to track back and do the defensive duties. Griezmann has made 17 interceptions in this tournament and averages 2.16 interceptions per game. He also wins around 2.07 loose balls per game. In addition, he has contested 29 defensive duels in this World Cup, winning 15 of them with a 51.72% success rate.
Griezmann recovers possession in the attacking half with his tireless pressing. The above visual shows the high regains made by Antoine Griezmann in this World Cup. France presses the opponent the moment they lose the ball. These counter-pressing recoveries have helped them win the ball in the attacking third and release the forward players. Griezmann has recovered the ball 32 times in this World Cup, with 14 of them in the attacking half, for an average of 5.33 recoveries per game.
The creative side of Griezmann
Griezmann has attempted 253 passes in this tournament, completing 216 of them with an accuracy of 85.37%. He moves around the field, playing short passes, combining with other players, and taking the play forward. The 31-year-old has played 34 passes into the final third, completing 28 of them with an 82.3% success rate. He’s also made an average of 2.5 passes into the penalty box. Griezmann has excellent vision, spotting the runs of wingers Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele and playing the appropriate passes to find them.
When Greizmann occupies the wide positions, the winger in him comes alive. He either dribbles past players or whips in some accurate crosses. With Oliver Giroud, who is a constant threat in the air, in the box, these crosses always ask questions of the defence. He has played 1.6 crosses per game on average and assisted twice. The winning goal against England came from such a cross, which was headed home by Giroud.
Antoine Griezmann is in charge of the set pieces for France. He takes almost all the corners and free kicks and puts in some tantalising crosses. Griezmann already has two assists to his name in this tournament. He would have had more if some of the crosses were put in by other players, as the expected assists suggest.
The only thing missing from a perfect World Cup campaign for Antoine Griezmann are goals. He has tried five shots this tournament, but none of them have found the back of the net. His late equaliser against Tunisia was ruled out by an intervention from the VAR. He has tried three shots on target and has an average of 0.83 shots per game.
Antoine Griezmann is perhaps the most important player for France, as he holds the team together. He has ticked all the boxes in this World Cup except for a goal, which he will be trying to change in the final against Argentina. If Argentina has to win the game, Griezmann should be kept quiet. But if he performs well, the chances of France lifting the trophy and him getting the golden ball are extremely high.
Visuals via TFA data viz engine