Soccer / World Cup

France relaxed ahead of World Cup final vs. Croatia

Reuters

If Antoine Griezmann’s jocular demeanor is anything to go by, France is far from overawed by the prospect of playing in the World Cup final and in buoyant spirits ahead of Sunday’s clash with Croatia.

The diminutive striker was full of bonhomie on Friday at a news conference at the team’s training base outside of Moscow, joking with and teasing reporters as well as the team’s veteran press officer Philippe Tournon, who retires after the tournament.

“We lost when I was top goal scorer at Euro 2016,” he joked, “so this time I’ve tried to score fewer goals to see if it helped us to win.

“I have tried to manage my play, when to keep the ball, when to accelerate. If I score, so much the better, but I am a player who thinks first of all about the team.”

He cut short a questioner who wanted a response to criticism from Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who accused the French of playing negative soccer in their semifinal on Tuesday.

“No, no, no . . . Let’s not go there. I don’t care about that. I want the star (on the jersey). How we play to win the game I do not care! Thibaut Courtois must stop (his criticism). Does his team Chelsea play like Barcelona?”

On the tactics for Sunday’s final at the Luzhniki Stadium, Griezmann hinted that coach Didier Deschamps was hatching particular plans.

“It’s up to the coach to choose the tactics, but there is (Luka) Modric and also (Ivan) Rakitic to consider. These are two very technically strong players who are essential for Croatia. . .”