Paris, July 9 (IANS) Following his brace in the semi-final victory over Germany at the European Championship, France’s new poster boy Antoine Griezmann admitted that he and his team-mates feel a responsibility to bring joy back to the nation after the terror attacks in Paris last November.
Griezmann, the Atletico Madrid forward whose career has been spent solely in Spain since leaving his family home in Macon to play for Real Sociedad as a teenager, will lead France into the Euro 2016 final against Portugal on Sunday having scored six goals so far in the competition for Didier Deschamps’ team.
With his sister, Maud, a survivor of the attack at the Bataclan Theatre which left 89 dead last November — the 28-year-old spoke this week of how she lay motionless on the floor for up to ninety minutes while gunmen indiscriminately shot those still alive.
Griezmann has now become a positive symbol linking last November and the new sense of unity flowing through the country, with his own personal experience of the terror attacks offering a true connection to the French public.
“It was our duty to win the matches, to try and entertain the French people and try and go all the way in this tournament. That’s what we needed to do, representing France. I hope we can continue now in the final,” Griezmann was quoted as saying by the Independent.
“Our duty is to win matches to give pleasure to the French. We want them to be proud of the France team and I hope we end with a beautiful story.”
The anxiety and apprehension which shrouded France at the outset of Euro 2016 has dissipated during the last four weeks that have seen Deschamps’ team evoke the spirit of former France coach Aime Jacquet’s 1998 World Cup winners.
An intense security operation will be in place over the weekend ahead of the final, to safeguard against any hint of complacency, but Griezmann insisted that his team have played in the tournament without fear of further attacks disrupting the competition.
“Just before the Romania match, the president came to talk to us about the security measures in and around the stadia. We were pretty calm,” he said.
Michel Platini’s nine goals at Euro 84, when France won the tournament on home soil, elevated the midfielder to a position eclipsed only by Zinedine Zidane, the inspiration behind the 1998 World Cup triumph.
Griezmann is likely to enjoy a similar status if France can overcome Portugal at the Stade de France and the player admits that the feats of Les Bleus this summer are giving inspiration to a new generation.
“We’re like kids, there’s a whole country behind us and we have to give 100 per cent for them. But now we have to win the final. It is an immense joy to reach the final and I feel a lot of pride and happiness, but the final will be tricky. We will be ready, though,” he said.
“We can start dreaming on 10 July, but we have to keep our feet on the ground up to then. It was great with the fans before and after the game in Marseille, a fantastic experience, and we hope to live that again in the final,” Griezmann concluded.