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Why France’s other La Liga star is crucial to World Cup success

| 01.07.2014

With Karim Benzema toiling out on the left and Olivier Giroud struggling through the centre of Les Bleus attack, France were in danger of becoming the first major casualty of the knockout stages against Nigeria.

But that all changed just after the hour mark with the introduction of Real Sociedad star Antoine Griezmann for the Arsenal target man, with the 23-year-old slotting in out wide on the left in a move that allowed Benzema to return to his favoured central role.

Suddenly France were dominant, scoring just 17 minutes later albeit with some help from Super Eagles goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

Griezmann was then involved in the second goal, getting himself in a position in the box that forced Joseph Yobo to make the challenge that resulted in the defender turning the ball into his own net.

The introduction of the youngster proved to be a masterstroke from Didier Deschamps but in truth, the evidence was there from the very first game of the World Cup.

Lining up against Honduras, Benzema led the line for Les Bleus with Griezmann and Mathieu Valbuena providing support out wide.

It was a trident that bore fruit for France, with Benzema bagging a brace in an all conquering performance that would have been even better had a first half header from Griezmann added to the tally.

Deschamps then opted for something different against Switzerland, favouring the physicality of Olivier Giroud alongside Benzema as the French bashed a hapless Switzerland, scoring five goals in a game Philippe Senderos would most likely rather forget.

While the Ecuador encounter represented something of a training ground exercise for France, the second round meeting with Nigeria saw Deschamps opt for the same battering ram approach with Giroud leading the line.

It failed, with Giroud managing just 30 touches and two shots on goal in an hour and, more importantly still, completing just 67 per cent of his passes during the game – something verging on unforgiveable for a target man.

Griezmann, meanwhile, had an 82 per cent pass completion record, managed 24 touches and a shot, as well as contributing to France’s second goal in his half hour cameo.

With Germany’s high defensive line open to exploitation from players with pace on the flanks, as Algeria demonstrated, and Griezmann possessing a penchant for cutting inside and shooting, having racked up over 20 goals in La Liga last term, it would be a surprise to see the Arsenal man start.

Les Bleus are 2/1 to win their quarter-final in 90 minutes and 11/10 to qualify for the semis – provided they have the Sociedad man from the start, then that could be a real possibility.

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Jack Beresford

Jack Beresford is a content writer with over five years of experience in writing about sport and betting, including a two-year spell with Axonn Media. Contributes articles to HereIsTheCity and Lad Bible, while previous credits include Bwin, FTB Pro, Bleacher Report and the QBE rugby. Avid follower of tennis, rugby union, motorsport and football, Jack also writes about poker for Cardspiel.com alongside Guardian journalist Dominic Wells.