France have booked their place in the first World Cup final in 12 years at this summer’s tournament. They overcame a talented Belgium side 1-0 to move to within 90 minutes of regaining the status of world champions. In Sunday’s Final they will come up against the winner of the other semi-final, contested between England and Croatia, and whichever side gets through to the biggest match in world football the French will go in as favourites – but needing star striker Antoine Griezmann to be on top form. Griezmann’s World Cup campaign so far has of course been decent – he has bagged three goals for himself while partnering arguably one of the stars of the show, Kylian Mbappe, through the youngster’s first senior international tournament.
Griezmann has proven a popular figure on social media, speaking of his love for Uruguay – the side France knocked out in the quarter-finals – as well as recently committing his immediate future to Atletico Madrid after initially looking as though he would be moving on to pastures new after this summer’s showpiece in Russia. Barcelona had been his rumoured destination, but Griezmann instead rejected a move to the Catalans and penned a new five-year contract to remain with Atletico. As well as his three goals, the 27-year-old has provided two assists as well, and those five goals in which he has been directly involved prove that, despite much of the spotlight being on Mbappe, his contribution has been vital to France’s progress.
In either England or Croatia, France will find themselves up against a team where arguably defence is not their strongest suit. Croatia’s pièce de résistance (if you will pardon the pun) is their midfield, which they boast one of the finest in the entire tournament this summer. Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić may not necessarily have worked together as fluently as one may expect, but individually they are both essential to Croatia’s cause. England arguably do have a strength defensively – their defenders are good, of course, but goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has been one of this summer’s success stories, regardless of what happens in the second semi-final. He has proven himself to be a tough keeper to break down, with nerves of steel and a confidence that does not betray his age.
Griezmann will have to work hard if he is to get the better of Pickford should England be the team to progress, while if it is Zlatko Dalic’s men who get through then he may need to work a bit harder to grind out a clear cut chance, dropping deeper to retrieve the ball as France will need to nullify the threat of the Croatian midfield. Having a great midfield of their own will help that aim tremendously, and if the likes of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante can get their rhythm and find Griezmann, Mbappe or Olivier Giroud moving forward then France will have a chance to show the world just why they are the favourites to lift the trophy on Sunday.
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