France coach indulges Griezmann before World Cup match

June 15, 2018

KAZAN, Russia (AP) France coach Didier Deschamps has always been clear with his players since taking charge six years ago: there is no ''I'' in team.

Deschamps, however, has made an exception with Antoine Griezmann, stopping short of criticizing the star striker a day after he theatrically announced his decision to stay with Atletico Madrid during a television show. The program, called ''The Decision,'' was broadcast on Spanish TV on Thursday, just two days before France's opening World Cup game against Australia.

Griezmann has been mocked on social media for the way he promoted his announcement in the 45-minute special that included footage of him getting a tattoo and eating popcorn. The documentary was reminiscent of the movie made by NBA star LeBron James back in 2010, when he announced his decision to join the Miami Heat in a TV show broadcast on ESPN.

Among the negative comments aimed at Griezmann was the fact he should have been focusing on France and the World Cup instead of promoting his personal career. But Deschamps said he didn't care, when asked about the timing.

''It's a very good thing for his club. You might think the format (he picked) matters. I'm more interested in the substance,'' said Deschamps, usually a strong disciplinarian.

Griezmann, the top scorer at the 2016 European Championship, is an essential piece of Deschamps' attacking line. Instead of blaming him, Deschamps said he wasn't aware of the film and joked with reporters afterward, pretending that he had actually shot the program himself.

Griezmann's announcement put an end to widespread speculation that he would leave to join Spanish rival Barcelona. Griezmann has scored at least 25 goals a season in the four campaigns he has played for Atletico, including two goals in the team's 3-0 victory over Marseille in the Europa League final last month.

''I will keep to things from this: His loyalty and attachment to Atletico Madrid, and most of all, that now he will have his mind free for the World Cup,'' Deschamps said.

Asked about his views on the matter, France captain Hugo Lloris said the team had a good laugh.

''We took it with irony. It's good for him that he is now free of all the pressure that surrounded him in recent weeks,'' Lloris said. ''To tell you the truth, we are focused on tomorrow's match.''