France bank on slow-starter Griezmann to come good
Antoine Griezmann (Getty)
Moscow - Soccer World Cup contenders France are waiting for
star striker Antoine Griezmann to hit his stride as they aim to secure top spot
in Group C against Denmark on Tuesday.
Griezmann signed an extension with Atletico Madrid through
to 2023 last week despite strong interest from Barcelona, but the 27-year-old
has yet to find his best form in Russia.
While he scored from the penalty spot in an opening 2-1 win
over Australia, his sluggish start to the tournament mirrors his early travails
at Euro 2016 where Griezmann finished as top scorer.
"I think he will get stronger, I hope he does. That was
the case at the Euros, he started slowly and finished very strong. I'm not
worried about him," said Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud.
Griezmann scored six goals as France finished runners-up to
Portugal at the European Championship, clicking into gear as the competition
progressed and netting five times in the knockout stages.
"He has had a long, gruelling season. He's played a
huge number of matches," added Giroud, with Griezmann helping Atletico
claim a third Europa League title.
"When you have a bit less in your legs, it's harder to
be at ease on the pitch, but he's still very important for us."
Griezmann himself admitted there is room for improvement as
France target a deep run at the World Cup.
"I'm going to get better and I'm sure the level
everyone expects, including myself, is going to come quickly," he told
French TV channel TF1.
Didier Deschamps' side are already qualified and would
clinch first place with a draw in Moscow, a result that would also send Denmark
through as runners-up irrespective of Australia's result against Peru.
Bayern Munich midfielder Corentin Tolisso is keen to avoid
Croatia in the last 16, even if finishing top could mean a blockbuster clash
with Lionel Messi's Argentina.
"Croatia will come out of Group D, so above all we have
to avoid finishing second to avoid meeting them," said Tolisso, who
started the first game against Australia.
"Between Nigeria, Iceland and Argentina, they are all
"We know the Argentines have very strong individuals,
notably Lionel Messi," he added. "You never know what's going to
happen in a match. But we know the last 16 will be difficult, regardless of the
Second-placed Denmark beat Peru 1-0 in their first game
before a 1-1 draw with Australia to extend their unbeaten run to 17 matches.
Age Hareide's side are looking to reach the latter stages at
a World Cup for the first time since 2002.
"France may be considered among the favourites and have
six points but they have not been finishing off opponents," Hareide told
Danish newspaper bold.dk. "They have been pushed to the wire to get the
"They played well in the friendlies, but have not
played well so far in the World Cup," he added.
Yussuf Poulsen is suspended after he collected a second
booking in as many outings against Australia, the forward picking up a harsh
yellow card following a VAR-awarded penalty.
Denmark are hopeful midfielder William Kvist will return at
some stage after breaking two ribs and suffering a punctured lung against Peru,
although it won't be in time to face France.