France kicked off their World Cup campaign with a slender victory over Australia.
For long periods, the French looked lethargic and unable to string a succession of passes together.
Antoine Griezmann was one of the worst offenders and was largely ineffective against supposedly ‘inferior’ opposition.
Take nothing away from Australia, who fought for every ball and toiled for the entire 90 minutes.
That they were only beaten by a penalty given by VAR and a deflection says much about Les Bleus ineffectiveness.
France generally don’t start well at the major tournaments so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised, although it was the perfect opportunity for Greizmann to put himself on the pedestal alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar.
That is the level the Atletico Madrid striker desires to be at, but he fell woefully short.
Did he have too much on his mind after the ridiculous soap opera surrounding his ‘will he, won’t he’ transfer saga?
In the modern era, players seem more concerned with their image off the pitch than what they actually do on it, and the Frenchman had taken until the eve of the World Cup to let everyone know his intentions.
But rather than announce it at a press conference or perhaps via a short social media message, Griezmann made a 30-minute film about the process of coming to the eventual decision.
Some may see it as a novel and unique way of building up interest around the player, but the documentary was ill-conceived, self-indulgent, embarrassing and ultimately a song and dance about nothing.
It is, from a footballing perspective, probably the right decision for both Griezmann and Barcelona, because he was a ‘statement’ signing arguably to make up for the loss of Neymar but with no real thought given by the Catalans as to how he was going to fit into their system.
The player himself will remain king pin at the Wanda Metropolitano rather than being in Messi’s shadow, at a club where he is happy and where they play to his strengths.
But, after putting himself front and centre, he’ll be a huge target for opposition defenders and will really need to up his game from here on in.
It’s suggested that he wants to be the best and get in regular contention for the Ballon d’Or. By staying at Atletico, that arguably requires him to drag the Rojiblancos to the top level in the same way Messi has done for years at Barcelona, and Ronaldo at Real Madrid.
No more ‘near misses’ in the Champions League, or just falling short in La Liga. Now he has to win the trophies that justify Atleti’s investment.
If he does that, then, and only then, will the opportunity of glorifying it all on celluloid be deserved.
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