Just don't call Griezmann a striker: he's much more than that

All-purpose attacker Antoine Griezmann may have killed the out-and-out striker's role once and for all after his eye-catching performance for France during the 2016 European Championship.


France's Antoine Griezmann was named the best player at EURO 2016 Source: Getty Images

And Australia's Socceroos, which have depended on spearhead Tim Cahill's goals for a long time, would do well to heed the clear message that emerged from EURO 2016.

Cahill continues to do a magnificent job for Australia in his position as the go-to man at the point of the attack but the day he hangs up his bountiful boots cannot be all that far away.

Many expect the 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign to be his last contribution to the national team that he has adorned for so many years.

The 'centre-forward' role has become less fashionable - a luxury perhaps - in the last few years but, hey, if Cahill keeps coming up with the goods it will always be the end justifying the means in his case.

Yet Ange Postecoglou might relish the opportunity when it arises to replace his prolific talisman with a multi-functional striker a la Griezmann to fully complement the Socceroos' style of play based on positive possession.

The French failed to win their third continental title when they crashed to a surprise 1-0 defeat against Portugal at the Stade de France.

But Griezmann left EURO 2016 with his head held high after finishing as top scorer and being named player of the tournament.

The overall performance of Griezmann, who in his formative years was deemed to be too small to be a professional footballer, has cast serious doubts over the value of the out-and-out striker's role in this day and age.

Griezmann, who plays his club football for Atletico Madrid, will rue the glorious chance he fluffed in the final when he mistimed his leap to head over the target from close, a header he usually would have put away with his eyes closed.

However, that was the only little, if costly, blemish on Griezmann's overall contribution that was highlighted by six goals ranging from the opportunistic to the sublime.

The most telling features of his game are a capacity to make and score goals, an amazing heading ability for one of his size, a tendency to initiate and drive attacking moves with his individual skills and incisive passing, his running off the ball to create space for himself and for others and his willingness to track back and fetch the ball.

He was always involved in France's manoeuvres, making positive combinations that often led to dangerous situations.

Most significantly, Griezmann appeared to be the go-to man in the France team, the one you give the ball to when you're not so sure what to do with it or you're in trouble.

He is almost the complete player, a modern-day total footballer who would not have looked out of place in Ajax's super team of the 1970s.

Griezmann, who is only 25, is not the first man to leave his mark as a top class multi-skilled striker.

Lionel Messi performs a similar role when he plays for Barcelona and Argentina, as does Cristiano Ronaldo for Real Madrid and Portugal to a degree.

Other world class strikers like South Americans Luis Suarez and Neymar and Europeans Thomas Muller and Wayne Rooney, who both had a quiet EURO 2016, are also experts in the fine art of playing between the lines of attack and midfield.

However, it is only Messi who does this job better than Griezmann at the moment.

When you see a player like Griezmann overshadow Dimitri Payet's stellar performance for Les Bleus, you wonder if the one-dimensional, centre-forward's role has become too old fashioned that coaches can ill afford.

The main striker's job is to score goals and if you find someone who can do that regularly you hang on to him, let's not forget that.

However, as the world game evolved the main striker's role changed too mainly because the attacking pattern of many teams does not require such an out-and-out forward anymore.

The more successful teams in fact are those which are lucky enough to be able to avail themselves of central strikers who see scoring as just one part of their overall job. Just like Griezmann.

There exists a similar scenario with goalkeepers, whose job essentially is to stop the ball from entering the net.

But the more adept they are at controlling the ball with their feet and playing out the better and more valuable they become.

Australia are fortunate to have a top goalkeeper in Mat Ryan who is also very strong with his feet and is often the Socceroos' extra defender.

His ball control and passing in his last international match against Greece in Sydney in June were from the top drawer.

Not everyone is in the same boat, however. The back-pass rule, for example, has exposed several goalkeepers with little or no ball skills and damaged their reputations.

Such little advantages can make all the difference between success and failure.

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5 min read
Published 18 July 2016 at 11:00am
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS