Griezmann, Pogba ready to fill the boots of Platini, Zidane

France's midfielder Paul Pogba (left) runs behind France's forward Antoine Griezmann during a training session in Marseille, France, on July 6.
France's midfielder Paul Pogba (left) runs behind France's forward Antoine Griezmann during a training session in Marseille, France, on July 6.PHOTO: AFP

MARSEILLE • Used to relying heavily on one key player for their European glories in the past - Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane in the 1984 and 2000 tournaments respectively - French fans have two talented players on whom to pin their hopes at Euro 2016.

Some suggested one was exhausted after a gruelling season and the other might be over-rated, but France's Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba have started to prove the critics wrong.

After recovering from sluggish starts, the speedy striker and the gifted midfielder are expected to be France's trump cards when the hosts take on world champions Germany in their semi-final today.

The form of the two players has gone hand in hand with that of the host nation, both improving to silence their critics and reassure their fans.

Both scored in a comfortable 5-2 victory over Iceland in the quarter-finals and Griezmann now tops the scorers' table with four goals.

The 25-year-old reached new heights this season as his scoring steered Atletico Madrid to the Champions League final.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone described the disciplined, hardworking striker as one of the world's top three players.

Griezmann often walks around sipping yerba mate - an infused drink popular in parts of South America - and always wears long sleeves, following the habit of his childhood hero David Beckham.

He also knows how to beat Germany's influential goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

Griezmann scored in Atletico's 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals last season, when he rounded off a great run with a clever finish inside the box.

The Germany players will also have to keep a close eye on Pogba.

Highly successful at club level with Juventus, having helped them to four Italian Serie A titles, the 23-year-old has often frustrated fans with below-par performances on the international stage.

Some believe that Pogba has shown only glimpses of his obvious talent.

French fans hope that now is the time for him to shake off his tag as a gifted but erratic player.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2016, with the headline 'Griezmann, Pogba ready to fill the boots of Platini, Zidane'. Print Edition | Subscribe