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08th Jul 2016

Antoine Griezmann, the modern football hero we can all relate to

Nothing handed to him

Patrick McCarry

By all accounts, Antoine Griezmann should not be on our radar.

Born to a town councillor father and hospital cleaner mother, in a town famous for nothing, Griezmann grew up far from the bright lights and big expectations. He was a handy footballer but most scouts for the major French sides dismissed him because of his size.

His skill eventually brought attention but few were convinced. Seven French clubs ticked a box. They looked at him, rated him highly and kept looking. When it came to making that crucial call, none would stake their reputation on him. “I was too small,” he once reflected.

A Real Sociedad scout went with his instincts, back in 2005, and a 14-year-old Griezmann was offered his chance – a week’s trial in Spain. He did so well that he was invited to stick around for a second week.

Macon to San Sebastian is some 850 kilometres. It wasn’t his plan but Sociedad were the only club willing to take a chance. He took a chance back.

Still, 250 games and 100 goals into life as a professional footballer, Griezmann is the guy opponents size up and think they’ve got a handle on. 5-foot-9 and a little over 12 stone, he’s easy to pass by.

Matuidi Griezmann

Griezmann had four goals and two assists heading into last night’s semi final with Germany, yet the names of Pogba, Payet and Giroud were mentioned as game-breakers. By the end of the 90 minutes, all we could talk about was Griezmann and one sick piece of skill from Paul Pogba.

A penalty dispatched without a flutter and a finish cooler and calmer than the chaos about him. France are on the brink and yet we’re still looking at this guy and wondering how someone so slight is winning all the battles and showing up in the right places.

On Sunday, Griezmann will find Portugal pay him more attention than he is used to. They will switch off, though, just for a moment and reckon someone else will pick him up. Someone else will beat him to it.

They’ll be wrong. Griezmann will step up, like he has done since leaving home at 14 to follow his dreams.

In a tournament where so many flattered, deceived and packed off early, Griezmann has shone. A player who wants the ball and wants to win. Hope for us all.

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