At international tournaments, it’s often the case that one player excels above all others, usually in terms of goals, and Euro 2016 has definitely been Antoine Griezmann’s competition. The Atletico Madrid forward, though, has been about much more than goals – he has been the match-winner who influences games near enough every time he gets on the ball, and because of that, his stock has well and truly rocketed.
With six goals and two assists, there is no doubting that Griezmann has been the most effective player in France this summer. Didier Deschamps has used the 25-year-old as a winger in the majority of his appearances for his national team, and that is how he started out in this tournament, albeit with the licence to drift inside in order for his goalscoring instincts to be taken advantage of. It has been from these wide positions that Griezmann has scored half of his goals so far, with a bullet header off the bench against Albania and a quick double versus Republic of Ireland in the round of 16.
However, the man from Macon has took his performances to whole new levels in France’s last two games against Iceland and Germany. This has largely been down to a change from 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 which has allowed Griezmann to play in behind Olivier Giroud and exploit the spaces in between the opposition’s defence and midfield. It’s a role that we’ve often seen him play under Diego Simeone for his club as the player who picks up the ball in his team’s own half and uses his pace to instigate counterattacks.
It is clear that this position suits Griezmann down to the ground. In Thursday’s semi-final, he successfully completed 100 percent of his take-ons. His ability to simply glide past players and also finish off the chances presented to him is an absolutely-deadly combination, and one that France now use as their main weapon.
Despite becoming the first player to score more than five goals at a European Championship since Michel Platini in 1984 and becoming the second highest-scoring Frenchman in Euros history behind the same player, the former Real Sociedad forward is staying firmly grounded. After his double against Germany, he was quoted as saying, “I’m still far behind Michel Platini.”
In terms of stature and consistently performing at the highest level of the game, Griezmann is probably right, but he has done no harm in endearing himself to French football fans this summer and elevating himself to a new stratum of player. If people didn’t already know who this man was, they most certainly do now, and if this kind of form continues into the new season, then he will almost certainly be a Ballon d’Or contender.
With one more game still to go at Stade de France on Sunday and the opportunity to score another goal or two, there is still more history to be made for Griezmann. Whatever happens though, Euro 2016 has been his tournament.