Antoine Griezmann has said France will channel the anger of their draw against Hungary and the pain of the Euro 2016 final defeat into their group final with Portugal.
The world champions meet the European champions on Wednesday in a match that will determine the course of the tournament for several title contenders. Germany, Portugal and France are still in contention to win Group F and secure what seems the easiest route to the quarter-finals. The runner-up could face England at Wembley on Tuesday next week provided Gareth Southgate’s side beat the Czech Republic to win Group D. The Netherlands or Belgium could wait for whoever finishes third.
France missed a chance to advance to the round of 16 and strengthen their grip on first place on Saturday in a draw against Hungary in Budapest. Despite his 38th goal for the Blues, Griezmann was not impressed with the performance at Puskas Arena and admitted that it requires a reaction from Didier Deschamps’ side against the Portuguese.
“We are disappointed, angry even, but it was a complicated game with very high temperatures and the ground was very dry,” said the Barcelona forward on Sunday. “We have to have a reaction against Portugal. The sooner the game arrives, the better it will be 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 squad, the team and the staff to do it, but we know it won’t be easy and we have to work on the pitch to get three points and keep the top spot.
Griezmann has admitted that France bore the scars of losing to Portugal at Euro 2016 in Paris, although he believes the loss may work in favor of the world champions. “I don’t think this match will change anything but we are hungrier [to make amends], and when you’re hungry, big disappointments hurt more. Losing a home final in France is the worst thing. This now gives us the passion to go further and win this tournament.
“It will be a great game against Portugal. The stadium will be full and many of us will have our families in the stands so it’s up to us to take the three points. We must keep the first place in the group and give a good show to the French supporters.
A meeting with Portugal is of personal importance to Griezmann. His maternal grandfather, Amaro Lopes, was Portuguese and professional footballer in Portugal before emigrating to France to work in construction. Loyalties will be shared in his family on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old said: “It’s a special game for me because of my family, some of them have Portugal shirts and whoever loses will get teased. I’m very proud to play for France and it’s great to be able to play against Portugal. My mom will be present in the stands because she managed to make the trip so it’s always a great moment for her. Play against a great nation like Portugal and against [Cristiano] Ronaldo is special. We will really try to win for the French and also for my mom.
“It will be nice to see my family, even from afar. We are not allowed to touch them or be close to them because of the Covid bubble. It’s difficult this year for everyone, the players and the staff, but you just have to accept it. It just gives you something extra to take home the trophy. “
Griezmann’s equalizer against Hungary leaves him three goals to become France’s third top scorer alongside Michel Platini. Only Olivier Giroud, out of 46, and Thierry Henry, with 51, have more. The comeback is paltry compared to Ronaldo’s attempts to overtake Ali Daei as the all-time top international scorer. The Portugal captain drags the Iranian legend of 109 by two after his goal against Germany.
“Ronaldo is an inspiration to everyone,” Griezmann said. “It’s extraordinary what he does at 36 years old. No one will be able to touch it. We are lucky to be able to see him play. Cristiano is still dominant, he’s a great finisher and a complete player who can score with his left, right or header. This is a great example for all young players and for the not so young too. He can show a lot of people how to play.