Griezmann’s fight opens doors for Nkunku at Worlds | Football

PARIS (AP) — Antoine Griezmann’s alarming decline in form means his place in France’s World Cup starting lineup is under threat from Christopher Nkunku.

If Griezmann’s struggles continue in two international matches in September, coach Didier Deschamps could choose Leipzig’s Nkunka when France start their title defense in Qatar two months later.

“They have two different profiles. Christopher is perhaps more of a striker than Antoine, who is more of a creator,” Deschamps said recently. “From a sporting point of view, they are different, and not just in terms of size and physique.”

Nkunku, 24, is a fast and technical player who operates as a striker or attacking midfielder. Last season, he was named the best player in the German league by his fellow pros after scoring 35 goals and providing 14 assists. In contrast, Griezmann has not scored for either France or Atlético Madrid since early January.

Nkunku started ahead of Griezmann in the Nations League game against Croatia on Monday. In the previous match in Austria, Nkunku came off the bench with a deft pass adjust the equalizer for Kylian Mbappe.

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

Christopher is also good in the air. Even though he is not as tall, he is good at jumping and can run into space,” Deschamps said. “Antoine can do it too, but he is more involved in the preparation and organization.”

For years, turning down Griezmann would have been unthinkable for Deschamps, who is very close to the player and admires his selfless attitude. Griezmann has played 108 times but recent games have not been great and he was taken off the field in the 63rd minute in Austria.

“He knows he is not in the best shape. You can see it in his game and his impact on our attack,” Deschamps said recently. This is not the best period for him. This is partly physical, partly psychological. (But) I’m not saying he’s exhausted.”

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

“He will score at some point,” Benzema said.

Griezmann is third in France’s top scorer list with 42 goals. But the 31-year-old’s performance has left him so much that he only scored three goals in 26 games for Atletico last season.

It’s a far cry from his prolific spell at the Colchoneros, when he scored 133 goals in 257 games before joining Barcelona in 2021. weaken.

Fast forward to Monday night at the Stade de France, where Grisemann only entered the pitch in the last 15 minutes against Croatia. Le Blue lost 1-0 and relinquished the Nations League title. Lower France faces the prospect of relegation to League Two and is due to return home to Austria on 22 September and Denmark three days later.

Those games could also influence whether Griezmann is the starter or substitute when France launches their title defense against Australia in Qatar on November 22.

However, his place in the team looks certain.

“I know his abilities and his mental strength. He’s not having the best period, but that doesn’t mean I’ll doubt what he’s capable of,” Deschamps said. “I know very well what it brings.”

Griezmann started the season at Barcelona before returning to Atlético. He said that clubs’ different approaches to preparing for the season affected his form in the national team.

“I was a bit tired physically after the effort I put in, just like in my club. My pre-season with Barcelona was completely different from how Atlético plays,” Griezmann said after a 2-1 loss to Denmark on June 3, when he pulled out in the 78th minute.

He predicts he will be “much better physically” after a full pre-season with Atlético.

Deschamps is thinking about other things as well, not least how to deal with his team. France fared poorly in the Nations League, losing at home to Denmark and Croatia, as well as drawing against Croatia.

“We have to question everything. We lacked strength, character and energy. The highest level can be unforgiving,” Deschamps said. “I hope we can restore our strength, and the players will restore their morale. Did any of them get ahead of themselves?

Such poor form is not befitting for France, which also reached the final of the 2016 European Championship.

“We will need to show a lot more if we want to keep our status,” Deschamps said. “If you’re not doing well enough, you have to do your own self-criticism.”

There were extenuating circumstances such as injuries to key midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante and center back Rafael Varane, who only played one game.

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

Some of the tactical decisions he made have been questioned, such as moving from a three-man defense to a four-man squad.

“Just because you have a system doesn’t mean you have to stick to it,” Deschamps said, looking somewhat confused about how his own team should play.

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