Griezmann’s matches open the door for Nkunk at the World Cup

PARIS (AP) – Antoin Griezmann’s alarming decline means that his starting point for France at the World Cup is …

PARIS (AP) – Antoine Griezmann’s alarming decline means that his starting point in France at the World Cup is threatened by Christopher Nkunku.

If Griezmann’s problems continue in two international matches in September, coach Didier Deschamps could choose Leipzig’s Nkunk when France starts defending the title in Qatar two months later.

“They have two different profiles. Christopher is perhaps a bigger striker than Antoine, who is more of a creator, “Deschamps said recently. “They’re not the same athletically, not just in size and build.”

24-year-old Nkunku is a fast and skilled player who acts as an attacker or attacking midfielder. His fellow pros voted him the best player in the German league last season, scoring a total of 35 goals and adding 14 league assists. In sharp contrast, Griezmann has not scored for France or Atlético Madrid since the beginning of January.

Nkunku started on Monday before Griezmann in the League of Nations match against Croatia. In the previous match against Austria, Nkunk got off the bench and with a clever pass arranged the equalizer for Kylian Mbappe.

Nkunku’s style of play offers France a more straightforward approach.

“Christopher is good on the air, too.” Even though he is not so tall, he jumps well and can escape into space, “said Deschamps. “Antoine can do that too, but he’s more involved in building and organizing.”

For Deschamps, who is very close to the player and admires his selfless approach, it would be unthinkable for many years to drop Griezmann. Griezmann played 108 times, but the last performances were not good and after 63 minutes in Austria they withdrew.

“He knows he’s not in his best shape.” It shows his game and the impact on our attack, “Deschamps said recently. “It’s not his best time.” Part of it is physical, part mental. (But) I’m not saying he’s worn out. “

Something that never changes with Griezmann is that he never stops working hard. A teammate from France, Karim Benzema, said it was important to “look at the other things he does, how he backs down and defends.”

“At some stage he will score a goal,” Benzema said.

Griezmann is third in France’s scorer with 42 goals. But the 31-year-old scored so much that he scored only three league goals in 26 games for Atlético last season.

It is far from his fruitful work in Colchoneros, when before scoring to Barcelona in 2021 he scored a total of 133 goals in 257 matches. He was successful there, but his return of 35 goals in 102 matches fell short of expectations and his confidence began. decrease.

A quick shift on Monday night at the Stade de France and Grizemann started only in the last 15 minutes against Croatia. Les Bleus lost 1-0 and gave up the title of the League of Nations. France’s worst faces the prospect of relegation to the second league and has to bounce back to Austria on September 22 and Denmark three days later.

These matches could also affect whether Griezmann is a starter or a substitute when France starts defending the title against Australia on November 22 in Qatar.

However, the place in his line-up is certain.

“I know his abilities and mental strength. He doesn’t have the best time, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to doubt what he’s capable of doing, “said Deschamps. “I know very well what it brings.”

Griezmann began the season with Barcelona and then rejoined Athletics. He said that different ways of preparing clubs for the season affected his form in the national team.

“I was a little physically tired after the effort, just like in my club. My preparation season with Barcelona was completely different from how Atlético plays, “said Griezmann after losing 2: 1 to Denmark on June 3, when he left after 78 minutes.

He predicts that after a complete preparatory season with Atletico, he will be “physically much better”.

Deschamps has other things in mind, not least the organization of his team. France looked poor in the League of Nations, lost at home to Denmark and Croatia, and also drew in Croatia.

“We have to question everything. We lacked strength, character and energy. The highest level can be relentless, “said Deschamps. “I hope we can regain our strength and the players will restore their fighting spirit.” Did any of them overtake? ”

Such a weak form is not suitable for France, which also reached the finals of the European Championships in 2016.

“If we want to maintain our status, we will have to show much more,” Deschamps said. “From the moment you don’t do things well enough, you have to make your own self-criticism.”

There were mitigating circumstances, such as injuries to key midfielders Paul Pogbu and N’Golo Kante and midfielder Raphael Varane, who played only one match.

“We had a lot more injuries than we’re used to,” Deschamps said.

Some of the tactical decisions he made were challenged, such as the transition from a three-member defense to a four-member unit.

“Having a system doesn’t mean you have to stick to it,” Deschamps said, sounding a little confused about how his own team should play.

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