Griezmann gives his all, France advances to World Cup final

Dec 14, 2022, 12:28 AM | Updated: 3:26 pm
France's Antoine Griezmann celebrates with team mates after the World Cup semifinal soccer match be...

France's Antoine Griezmann celebrates with team mates after the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

(AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

              France's Antoine Griezmann celebrates with team mates after the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
            
              France's Antoine Griezmann celebrates after the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
            
              France's Theo Hernandez, left, shoots to score his side's opening goal during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
            
              France's Antoine Griezmann reacts after missing an opportunity to score during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
            
              France's Ibrahima Konate, left, challenges for the ball with Morocco's Achraf Hakimi during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
            
              French President Emmanuel Macron applauds after the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
            
              France's Antoine Griezmann, left, and Morocco's Azzedine Ounahi vie for the ball during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
            
              France's Antoine Griezmann, left, talks to Morocco's Jawad El Yamiq after the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
            
              French president Emmanuel Macron gestures during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

AL KHOR, Qatar (AP) — Darting runs. Key tackles. Timely interceptions. Calming passes.

Antoine Griezmann did it all for France on Wednesday, and now he’s going to his second World Cup final.

Griezmann had exceptional moments in both penalty areas — and all parts of the field in between, really — to help France beat an impressive Morocco 2-0 in the semifinals at Al Bayt Stadium.

It was a compete showcase of a gifted player who has reinvented himself at this year’s World Cup. And he will now try to deny Lionel Messi, his former teammate at Barcelona, of a first World Cup title on Sunday.

Griezmann played as a winger at the 2014 World Cup, then was France’s key scoring threat in its 2018 title win. He’s now an all-purpose midfielder creating chances for his teammates and snuffing out opposing threats.

“Griezmannkante,” wrote Paul Pogba admiringly on his Instagram account after the final whistle. Pogba and N’Golo Kante, a relentless ball recovery specialist, were the midfield heart of France’s last title-winning team and their absences in Qatar because of injury put more responsibility on the 31-year-old Griezmann.

It was an older, wiser Griezmann who reflected after being voted player of the match on how this semifinal win felt different to four years ago, when Belgium was beaten 1-0.

“Against Belgium, I cried,” Griezmann said. “I think now I am more focused. I am already focused on the final on Sunday. I try to keep my feet on the ground. I am more composed.”

His perfectly timed run beyond the Morocco defense carried the ball into the penalty area that led to the early opening goal on Wednesday. Theo Hernández was the eventual beneficiary in the fifth minute.

When Morocco put France under severe pressure in the second half, Griezmann responded with tackles, headers and blocks. All his boundless energy was needed before the win was sealed by substitute Randal Kolo Muani’s instant impact — and instant goal — in the 79th.

“Remarkable,” France right back Jules Koundé said of Griezmann. “He works hard, blocks the holes and then every time he touches the ball he tries to light up the game.”

When it was over, Griezmann slowly raised both arms and walked across the field to hug defender Ibrahima Konaté, who also was an immense barrier to Morocco’s persistent attacks.

Griezmann then went to console some of his opponents, seeking out goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who also plays in the Spanish league.

Griezmann has become a perfect example of how France has evolved after 10 years under coach Didier Deschamps.

The team reached the World Cup quarterfinals in 2014 and then played in the 2016 European Championship final, losing to Portugal at home in Paris. The French followed that with the World Cup title in 2018, and they’ll get a chance to win a third in their history on Sunday against Argentina at Lusail Stadium.

The spine of this team — goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, center back Raphaël Varane, Griezmann and striker Olivier Giroud — has been a constant presence. Mbappé’s explosive speed and goals entered the mix in 2017 and have brought glory to the second half of the Deschamps era.

On Sunday, there may yet be more to add to the already impressive list of achievements.

___

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) drives against New York Knicks center Jericho Sims during the...
Associated Press

Irving to miss Nets’ game Saturday, day after trade request

NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving will not play for the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night, a day after he told the team he would like to be traded. The Nets said Irving’s absence was due to right calf soreness, adding him to the injury report for their game against Washington. Irving had not been […]
1 day ago
A man works at an avocado orchard in Santa Ana Zirosto, Michoacan state, Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 26,...
Associated Press

Route to Super Bowl dangerous for Mexico’s avocado haulers

SANTA ANA ZIROSTO, Mexico (AP) — It is a long and sometimes dangerous journey for truckers transporting the avocados destined for guacamole on tables and tailgates in the United States during the Super Bowl. It starts in villages like Santa Ana Zirosto, high in the misty, pine-clad mountains of the western Mexico state of Michoacan. […]
1 day ago
Austin Krajicek, right, and Rajeev Ram of the USA in action against Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev...
Associated Press

US sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals on Saturday, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek. They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Ancer keeps his distance over Young in Saudi Arabia

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Abraham Ancer had a 6-under 64 to bump his lead to two shots over Cameron Young on Saturday going into the final round of the Saudi International. Ancer and Young, the PGA Tour rookie of the year who had a 65, have separated themselves from the field […]
1 day ago
Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Hurts runs a drill during practice at the NFL football team's training f...
Associated Press

Super Bowl-bound Eagles are built around QB Jalen Hurts

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to draft Jalen Hurts in 2020 came with as much hand-wringing as intrigue regarding how to use the talented Heisman Trophy finalist. The Eagles already had quarterback Carson Wentz locked into a $128 million contract. They certainly had more pressing needs at the time on all sides of […]
1 day ago
Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) drives as Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (11) defends during the f...
Associated Press

Young scores 27 to lead Hawks past Jazz, 115-108

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Trae Young had 27 points and six assists to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 115-108 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night. De’Andre Hunter scored 26 points for the Hawks. Onyeka Okongwu had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Dejounte Murray added 13 points and eight assists. Atlanta […]
1 day ago
Griezmann gives his all, France advances to World Cup final