ISTRA, Russia (AFP) — France forward Antoine Griezmann said Friday winning the World Cup against Croatia tomorrow was more important than how his team do it.
Belgium’s players criticised the tactics France used in their 1-0 semi-final win as Didier Deschamps’ team sat deep and Samuel Umtiti’s headed goal came from a corner, but Griezmann dismissed the criticism.
“I don’t care. I want the star (on my shirt for World Cup winners). If I get that star, I don’t care about how we play,” the 27-year-old Atletico Madrid forward told a press conference at France’s training base outside Moscow.
Griezmann said he had changed the way he plays for France in order to benefit the team.
He finished top scorer at Euro 2016 with six goals but France lost the final to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal on home soil.
He has just two goals in Russia and both have come from penalties, but he has contributed two assists.
“I was top scorer but we lost, so I said to myself: ‘I am going to score less to see if we can win’.
“My game is changing, now I am more likely to dictate the rhythm or hold onto the ball.
“If I score, then that’s great, but I am more a player who thinks of the team than of scoring.”
After a slow start in Russia, France have picked up form. Their blend of experienced campaigners like Griezmann and Paul Pogba, and young stars like Kylian Mbappe and Benjamin Pavard, ensures they are the bookmakers’ favourites.
Midfielder Blaise Matuidi said the defeat in the Euro 2016 final — when France seemed to freeze in front of their own fans at the Stade de France in Paris and Portugal nicked a 1-0 win — would be in many of the players’ minds when they walk out at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday.
“The tears have dried from Euro 2016 but it’s still there in a little corner of people’s minds,” Matuidi said on Friday.
“It will be useful for us on Sunday, even if I don’t like to keep bringing up the past. It will serve as a lesson to us and it means we know what it is to play in a final.
“We’ll approach it differently and hope that we play really well and win it. It’s up to us to put everything into place to achieve our dream of lifting the World Cup.”
Croatia mid fielder Ivan Rakitic insisted fatigue will not be an issue for the biggest game of his career despite being pushed to three periods of extra-time to make tomorrow’s World Cup final.
Barcelona’s Rakitic will make his 71st appearance of the season against France in Moscow after winning a La Liga and Copa del Rey double with the Catalans, more than any player at the World Cup.
“There will be excess power and energy, no worries about that,” Rakitic said on Friday.
Croatia have played 90 more minutes and had a day’s less rest than the French ahead of the final.
But Rakitic believes the pride of representing the smallest country to make the World Cup final in 68 years, with a population of just over four million, will motivate Croatia to create history.
“This is a historic game for not just us, for everybody who is a Croat. There are 4.5 million players on the pitch,” added Rakitic.
“We will carry one another, we will have the energy, we know this is the biggest game of our lives. We want to leave the pitch with our heads held high. We just need a little bit of luck to get the result.”
Ivan Perisic, who scored his side’s equaliser and set up Mario Mandzukic’s winner against England on Wednesday, is nursing a thigh injury.
Perisic missed training on Friday along with Ivan Strinic, Dejan Lovren, Sime Vrsaljko and Danijel Subasic.