Euro 2016 top scorer Antoine Griezmann is primed to make the difference once more in Sunday’s final against Portugal, according to France boss Didier Deschamps.
Griezmann netted both goals in the 2-0 semi-final win over world champions Germany in Marseille to take his tournament tally to six in as many matches.
The Atletico Madrid star’s purple patch will now come into direct confrontation with Cristiano Ronaldo at the Stade de France.
France midfielder Blaise Matuidi talked up Griezmann’s Ballon d’Or prospects on Friday and, although Deschamps would not be drawn on his player out-shining three-time winner Ronaldo in a bid for football’s most coveted individual prize, he spoke of having a special talent at his disposal.
“That’s up to you guys really, we’re already elsewhere with that [Ballon d’Or] argument,” Deschamps said. “What I am interested with is having Antoine Griezmann, with his team-mates, who can make France the European champions.
“There are always crucial, decisive players in every side who make the difference and do not necessarily depend on others.
“Antoine Griezmann is clearly a very young player who has had a great campaign. Cristiano Ronaldo has been at the top level for seven or eight years now. He scores a lot of goals for his club side, for the national team.
“Thus far there has
only been two contenders for your famous Ballon d’Or – him and [Lionel] Messi, but if Antoine Griezmann can be within the candidates, great, that would be a sign that things will go very well in the final and that there is great stuff still to come.”
Griezmann was left on the bench for France’s second game against Albania before coming on to score the breakthrough goal in a last-gasp 2-0 win.
His competition truly came to life as a second-half double completed France’s 2-1 second-half turnaround against Republic of Ireland in the last-16, while the 25-year-old also produced an exquisite lob during the 5-2 quarter-final demolition of Iceland.
“He had a very busy, full campaign. The last game of which was the Champions League final,” Deschamps said.
“He tried to digest that. I tried to give him a bit of a breather over the first three matches we played in the space of nine days.
“He is a very talented, clinical player and that is important for the team. He also gets the team playing. He is not simply an individual player.”
Deschamps’ decision to move Griezmann into a central attacking role off main striker Olivier Giroud is viewed as a pivotal moment in France’s tournament, given the ensuing goal-rush.
Nevertheless, the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000-winning captain stated he would have no qualms over switching his star man once more if a dogged Portugal prove tough to break down in Saint-Denis.
“I had also changed formation before in other matches,” Deschamps added. “Antoine Griezmann plays in a position that he is familiar with because it’s the position he operates in [with Atletico].
“He doesn’t necessarily always play there, sometimes he plays on the [left] flank, also on the right-hand side as well. Through his performances, he has been crucial and very important to us.
“Sure you need to tweak things to balance the side. But he is capable of playing in another role as well if I think it’s better for the team.”