PARIS ( Associated Press) – Antoine Griezmann’s alarming lack of fitness means he could find himself disengaged from his France World Cup-initiated by Christopher Nkunku.
If Griezmann’s problems persist during the two September internationals, coach Didier Deschamps could opt for Leipzig’s Nkunku, when France begin their title defense in Qatar two months later.
“They are different profiles. Christopher is probably a higher scorer than Antoine, more as a producer,” Deschamps said recently. “Athletely, they are not the same, and I only mean height and physique. Not there.”
The 24-year-old Nkunku is a quick and efficient player who can play as either a net striker or an attacking midfielder. His colleagues in the German professional league declared him the player of the season with 35 goals and 14 assists. Griezmann, on the other hand, has not scored for France or Atletico Madrid since January.
Nkunku made his Nations League debut against Croatia on Monday. In the previous match in Austria, in which he came in as a substitute, he sent a clever pass to Kylian Mbappe to score the draw.
Nkunku’s playing style allows a more direct approach to France.
“Christopher is good in the air too. Although he’s not that tall, he jumps well and runs in space,” Deschamps said. “Antoine is capable of doing the same, but he is more involved in the creation and organization.”
For many years, it would have been unthinkable for Deschamps to leave Griezmann aside, who maintains a close relationship with the player and admires his generous attitude. Griezmann has 108 appearances, but his recent performance has not been good, and he was withdrawn in the 63rd minute against Austria.
“He knows he’s not in his best shape. You can see that in his game and in his influence on our forwards,” Deschamps said recently. “It’s not his best time. Part of it is physical, part of it is mental. (But) I’m not saying it got worse.”
The thing that doesn’t change at Griezmann is that he never stops working. His partner in France, Karim Benzema, said that “it’s important to see how he does other things, how he delays and defends.”
“He will score again at some point,” Benzema said.
Griezmann is third on France’s all-time scoring list with 42 goals. But the 31-year-old striker has lost his goal, having scored just three goals in 26 appearances for Atletico last season.
It is far from his best time with Colconeros, when he scored 133 goals in 257 games before moving to Barcelona in 2021. There he scored some good runs, but his comeback fell short of expectations, with 35 goals in 102 games, and he began to lose confidence.
Fast-forward the tapes to Monday at the Stade de France, where Griezmann played just the last 15 minutes against Croatia. Les Blaises fell 1–0 and lost their chance to win the Nations League title. France, in last place, faces the prospect of relegation to the Second Division and needs to defeat Austria on 22 September and Denmark on 25 September.
When France begin their world title defense against Australia in Qatar on 22 November, those matches could determine whether Griezmann is a starter or a substitute.
However, there is no doubt about his place in the team.