MARSEILLE • He rejected comparisons with Michel Platini, but Antoine Griezmann is fast becoming a France legend after his two goals against Germany on Thursday.
Amid the controversial absence of Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, France have found a new hero in the diminutive striker.
With six goals already in his first European Championship, Griezmann is only three short of equalling Platini's record of nine goals at the 1984 tournament.
The 25-year-old Atletico Madrid forward showed a combination of grit, courage and an embarrassment of skill on his way to a second man-of-the-match performance in the 2-0 victory.
"He's a great player. He showed what kind of generous player he is tonight," said France coach Didier Deschamps. "In this Euro, he's been decisive for us. He can score and he can help others score."
In the Champions League final in May, Griezmann missed a first-half penalty for Atletico Madrid. City rivals Real went on to win their 11th European title.
On Thursday, he coolly scored the penalty after a Bastian Schweinsteiger handball. "I wanted to take a penalty again in an important moment and I'm happy I did, and happy I scored," he said.
Tomorrow, Griezmann has the chance to take revenge for the Champions League defeat by beating Portugal and stopping Real striker Cristiano Ronaldo from securing one of the few trophies he still lacks - a major finals title for his country.
Griezmann was electric from the outset in Marseille, with his speed and movement helping create several chances.
There were deft touches, blind passes and fantastic turns, but his eye for goal is his defining quality.
France striker Olivier Giroud, who like Benzema has been outshone by the little forward, paid tribute to his team-mate, saying he has "got stronger and stronger and silenced some critics".
"He has now taken over the leadership of our attack and has become indispensable for us."