Capturing the Game: Antoine Griezmann
By Jared Cordover
Cerebral and technical in his playing style, Antoine Griezmann can also be seen celebrating his goals with the same sort of childish pleasure that you might see in a youth getting ahold of their favorite type of ice cream cone. He is an energizer bunny with hair as marvelous as his play and tactical skills so sharp that defenders often become the supporting actors for his theatrics. With a German father who served as a town councilor and a maternal grandfather who played professional football in Portugal, Griezmann was gifted with the familial pedigree to lead and to play. A French national team member and former French youth international, Griezmann has pranced around the Spanish Premier Division since he helped Real Sociedad achieve league promotion after the 2009-10 season. Although had it been up to him, he never would have left France. Rejected once by Lyon and twice by Metz for his small stature, Griezmann chose Portugal, like his grandfather before him, as the destination where he would develop his play and hone in on his skillset. His differentiable style of play perfectly portrays the uniqueness of his background. Family members have gone on to note that Griezmann nearly chose to suit up for the Portuguese national team instead of the French one. Luckily for France, when his time came, Griezmann chose to play for them. His fiery playing style has led both his slender frame and the French national team to pastures greener than any French club initially believed was possible.
Whether slipping past well-angled defenders with an incomprehensible number of touches or whipping dangerous balls directly onto the feet of streaking teammates, the Frenchman has not left any excuses for fans to remain in their seats when they watch him. Antoine Griezmann had quietly torn up the European club football scene until the 2016 season, when his noise could no longer be contained. He and his club, Atletico Madrid, reached the Champions League finale, and Griezmann was the player to watch, thanks to his multi-game performance of epic proportions: a tandem of goals in a 2-0 win against La Liga rival Barcelona in the quarter-final and a decisive second half winner against superclub Bayern Munich in the semi-final. Just when it seemed as if Atletico was the team of destiny, Griezmann hit a snag against Real Madrid in the final, connecting with the crossbar on a missed penalty two minutes into the second half of what was an excruciating 1-0 loss for Atletico.
Griezmann did not dwell. Instead, just a month later, he led a tournament long French blitz in the UEFA Euro 2016. Racking up goals and assists throughout France’s seven games, Griezmann may have shined brightest with two goals in a 2-0 semi-final victory over Germany, the reigning World Cup champions. But for Griezmann, the game with the most personal significance was the final, against the squad he nearly joined: Portugal. In an extra-time thriller, he and the French team were defeated, but Griezmann’s six tournament goals would stand as the second most in the history of the European championship. His international performance left the soccer world hungry for more of his cheeky chip shots, exquisitely executed slide tackles and devastating nutmegs. Due largely in part to the selfless and mesmerizing play of their graceful striker, France would soon rise again.
Griezmann returned to the biggest football stage as a key cog in a dominant French machine during the 2018 World Cup. Along with fellow superstars Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann led a group that had both the youth and experience necessary to make a deep tournament run. Because of his composure, he served as the penalty taker in victories over Australia and Argentina. Because of his humility and gamesmanship, he chose to forego a celebration after a quarter-final goal in an eventual win against Uruguay. And because of his leadership, tenacity and performance, he was named man of the match in the World Cup championship, a 4-2 French victory over Croatia. France had returned to international football glory with a string of purely dominant performances. Most would agree that the team would never have been able to reach this summit without the strict consistency and unparalleled passion they received from their undersized, under-scouted and underestimated threat, Antoine Griezmann.