Antoine Griezmann has said France will channel the anger from their draw against Hungary and the pain of defeat in the Euro 2016 final into their group finale with Portugal.
The world champions meet the European champions on Wednesday in a game that will shape the course of the tournament for several title contenders. Germany, Portugal and France are all still vying to win Group F and secure what appears the easier route into the quarter-finals. The runner-up could face England at Wembley on Tuesday next week providing Gareth Southgate’s side beat the Czech Republic to win Group D. The Netherlands or Belgium could await whoever finishes third.
France missed a chance to qualify for the last 16 and strengthen their hold on first place on Saturday when held to a draw by Hungary in Budapest. Despite scoring his 38th goal for Les Bleus, Griezmann was unimpressed with the performance at the Puskas Arena and admitted it demands a reaction from Didier Deschamps’s team against the Portuguese.
“We’re disappointed, angry even, but it was a complicated game in really high temperatures and the ground was very dry,” the Barcelona forward said on Sunday. “We have to have a reaction against Portugal. The sooner the match comes the better it is for everyone.
“We have to be there on the pitch and we will have to work tactically and see where we can hurt them. We have the group and the team and staff to do that but we know it won’t be easy and we have to do the work on the pitch to get three points and keep first position.”
Griezmann admitted France bear the scars of losing against Portugal at Euro 2016 in Paris, although he believes that defeat can work in favour of the world champions. “I don’t think that game will change anything but we are more hungry [to make amends], and when you are hungry the big disappointments hurt more. Losing a final at home in France is the worst possible thing. It now gives us the passion to go further on and to win this tournament.
“It’s going to be a big match against Portugal. The stadium will be full and lots of us will have our families in the stands so it’s up to us to get the three points. We have to keep first place in the group and give a great show to the French supporters.”
An encounter with Portugal holds personal significance for Griezmann. His maternal grandfather, Amaro Lopes, was Portuguese and a professional footballer in Portugal before emigrating to France to work in construction. Loyalties will be divided in his family on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old said: “It is a special match for me because of my family, some of them have Portugal shirts and the one who loses will get teased. I’m very proud to play for France and it’s great to be able to play against Portugal. My mum will be present in the stands because she has managed to make the trip so it’s always a great moment for her. Playing against a great nation like Portugal and against [Cristiano] Ronaldo is special. We’re going to really try to win for the French people and also for my mum.
“It will be lovely to see my family even from afar. We’re not allowed to touch or be close to them because of the Covid bubble. It’s difficult this year for everybody, the players and the staff, but we just have to accept it. It just gives you that something extra to go and bring the trophy home.”
Griezmann’s equaliser against Hungary leaves him needing three goals to become the joint third-highest scorer for France alongside Michel Platini. Only Olivier Giroud, on 46, and Thierry Henry, with 51, have more. The return pales in comparison to Ronaldo’s attempts to overtake Ali Daei as the highest international goalscorer of all-time. Portugal’s captain trails the Iran legend’s haul of 109 by two following his goal against Germany.
“Ronaldo is a source of inspiration for everyone,” Griezmann said. “It is extraordinary what he’s doing at 36 years old. No one will be able to touch him. We are lucky to be able to watch him play. Cristiano is still dominant, he’s a great finisher and a complete player who can score with his left, his right or his head. He’s a great example for all young players and for not so young people too. He can show a lot of people how to play.”