Early rejection means France glory would be even sweeter for Griezmann

He has been the key man as the hosts reach the Euro 2016 final

BY Raf Diallo 22:36 Thursday 7 July 2016, 22:36 7 Jul 2016

France's Antoine Griezmann celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the Euro 2016 semifinal soccer match between Germany and France, at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Thursday, July 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Well, it looks like whoever is engraving winners' names on trophies can already get started on the Golden Boot and Player of the Tournament awards.

For a player who endured rejection as a teenage player because of his small stature before emerging as a real prospect over the border in Spain, Antoine Griezmann's decisive role in France's route to the Euro 2016 final on home soil must be like a dream come through.

Of course, they still have to find a way past Portugal. But with just one match to go, Griezmann is surely the preeminent player of the tournament with his six goals and outstanding knockout stage performances.

Already an elite player at club level with Atletico Madrid - they tied him to an improved contract in the past few weeks, fortunately for them - the 25-year-old has been the guiding light for France.

While the group stages did not see the best of him, France would not be where they are now without him as he picked up the hero status that Dimitri Payet had carried into the opening two games when Les Bleus were struggling to unwind their potential.

France's Antoine Griezmann, right, celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal with teammate Dimitri Payet, left, during the Euro 2016 quarterfinal soccer match between France and Iceland, at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, France, Sunday, July 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

With Didier Deschamps fielding him out on the wing, he was peripheral in the opening night win over Romania and then found himself dropped along with France's other big star Paul Pogba for the second match against Albania.

When he was brought on in the closing stages of that difficult clash, he showed just how decisive he could be when the 1 metre 75 forward rose high and headed into break the deadlock, paving the way for a 2-0 win.

And when Ireland had France on the rack after 45 minutes, Deschamps finally put Griezmann where he thrives best by moving into the middle, just behind Olivier Giroud.

Unfortunately for us, the reward for France was a brace for the Atletico star as his pace and finishing ability found a home from home in the central pockets and his positional flexibility adding to his threat.

He was also dangerous against Iceland, scoring once again and punishing Iceland's high line by playing close to Giroud and using his speed of thought and body.

And just a month after missing a penalty in a Champions League final, he set France on their way against Germany with another spot kick just before half-time, following that up with the second goal which killed off the world champions' hopes.

Off the pitch too, he has had an impact, with European football writer Andy Brassell noting how "the mood [around the team] is positive and personified by the huge popularity of Griezmann, a player who has come up the hard way, and who the public really can connect with."

Their Euro 2016 final opponents Portugal have a player from the other half of the Madrid club divide carrying a sense of destiny and although Cristiano Ronaldo has been decisive at times for them, Griezmann has been the true star of the tournament and holds the key to the home nation's destiny.

The early rejections will make success all the more sweeter for the man from the heartland of France.


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