Antoine Griezmann says he was “embarrassed” by Thibaut Courtois’s criticism of France’s style of play after they knocked Belgium out of the World Cup, considering it hypocritical after Courtois won a title with a similar style at Atletico Madrid.
Goalkeeper Courtois claimed he would have preferred to lose to Brazil in the quarter-finals as “at least that was a team that wanted to play football”, before describing France as “an anti-football team”.
Eden Hazard was also scathing of Didier Deschamps’ side, who had only 36 per cent of the possession at Krestovsky Stadium but still attempted 10 more shots than their opponents, with their winning goal coming from a Samuel Umtiti header from a corner.
Griezmann thinks Courtois’s comments were hypocritical given he was part of the Atletico team under Diego Simeone that won La Liga and reached the Champions League final in 2013-14 by often playing defensive football.
“What Courtois said embarrassed me because he played for Cholo, he knows how it goes, he won La Liga like that,” Griezmann told L’Equipe.
“They’re two different playing styles. There was a time for [Pep] Guardiola and his attacking 4-3-3. Now, there’s a time for this kind of 4-4-2.”
When asked if the remarks annoyed him, Griezmann replied: “No, but I still would have said the same in their situation.
“You play a game where you have possession and spend your time attacking. Opposite you, you have a boring, solid team, who concede almost no chances. When that happens, the goalkeeper makes an amazing save. And you get the goal from a set-piece, then the team goes back to defending…
“Yes, I would have said the same.”
34 – France have recorded the lowest possession for a team in a World Cup final (34.2%) since Opta analyses the competition (1966). Courtois ? #FRACRO #WorldCupFinal pic.twitter.com/rMxjOgsJjQ
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) 15 July 2018
Griezmann felt his own form in Russia peaked in the Belgium match, admitting he did not hit his stride until the knockout phase after struggling with fatigue during the group stage.
“I think that from the last 16 until the final, I was good in relation to what the match required,” he said.
“Against Argentina, I remember a ball I took off Lionel Messi on the surface and I thought, ‘that’s it, I’m okay, it’s going to be okay’. Against Uruguay, I was successful with set-pieces and then I took the game into my own hands, as I do at club level: keep the ball, win fouls…
“Against Belgium, I think that’s where I was best. I took control and found passes between the lines in difficult situations. And I was there defensively.”
Griezmann ended speculation of a move to Barcelona on the eve of the finals, releasing a video entitled ‘The Decision’ in which he confirmed he would be staying with Atletico.
The forward received some criticism for the timing and manner of his announcement, but he insists he had not made a decision until that time.
“It was the moment I knew my decision was made and I would not change any more,” he said. “Maybe it didn’t please everyone, but I wanted to show the moments we can go through in these situations and I received messages from sportspeople who loved it.”