Football

Griezmann: Maybe we found a system that suits us

France switch to 5-2-3 system against Finland and end five-match winless run

Antoine Griezmann played chief tormentor as France sprung back into life to end a five-game winless streak by beating visitors Finland 2-0 in a World Cup Group D qualifier yesterday morning (Singapore time).

After two 1-1 draws against Bosnia and Ukraine, coach Didier Deschamps' tinkering paid off as France started in an unusual 5-2-3 formation with Leo Dubois and Theo Hernandez as wing-backs and Griezmann, Anthony Martial and Karim Benzema up front.

Griezmann struck in each half after his partnership with Karim Benzema bore fruit in satisfying fashion to put the world champions top of the group on 12 points from six matches. The pair exchanged 28 passes and assisted the other for five attempts on goal.

Finland, who had a decent opening half, are third on five points from four games. Ukraine are second with five points after as many draws.

Griezmann, who now joins the legendary Michel Platini as France's joint-third all-time top scorer with 41 goals, told TF1: "It's a great source of pride... I always try to bring the best, whether it's goals, with my defensive or offensive work...

"What changed? Maybe we found a system that suits us better. We'll see, the coach will decide. But this time we were strong.

"We had drawn five times, and it was starting to take a long time. Here, we won in style."

Earlier this week, L'Equipe suggested that Benzema's return to the international fold, coupled with Deschamps' relaxing of his usual strict style after the 2018 World Cup win led to a drop in discipline and less squad cohesion, while his tactical tinkering was also cited.

They said Griezmann was confused by his regularly changing position and role.

After France's return to winning ways, Le Parisien quoted Deschamps as saying: "Clearly, his (Griezmann's) best position is through the middle, even if I wouldn't say that the link-up with Benzema wasn't good in the first match. It could have been better.

"Tonight, it was good because these are two players that speak the same football... Antoine scored, Karim could have as well, but obviously, the three offensive players were decisive."

He added that Kylian Mbappe's injury-enforced absence did not free up Benzema and Griezmann, saying: "Kylian has his place in the trio I picked tonight."

Benzema may not have been freed up, but he was definitely lifted by the crowd of his boyhood club Lyon at the Groupama Stadium.

On his standing ovation by the fans, the Real Madrid striker told TF1: "I have had a magnificent evening, I expected the ovation because Lyon and I have a love story."

Football