2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

14 June - 15 July

Russia 2018

Griezmann and Mbappe reveal their World Cup memories and dreams

Photomontage of Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé of France
© Getty Images
By Adrien Gingold​ with France

With two days to go before their first match against Australia, France have announced that they are ready and raring to go. Despite a seeming lack of experience, with only seven players in their squad having featured at a major international competition before, Les Bleus are generating more expectation and excitement than most sides at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

France’s main attraction is their front line, of whom fireworks are expected. With the eyes of the world fixed firmly on them, star strikers Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann took time out to speak to FIFA.

Early memories
Antoine Griezmann of France poses
© Getty Images

France 1998 was an obvious topic of conversation. Twenty years on from that momentous triumph, the two strikers explained just how big a role it played in them wanting to become footballers, even though, in his case, Mbappe was not even born when it happened. “That’s true, but I’ve still seen all their matches after the group phase on video,” said the 19-year-old.

For Griezmann, the memories are clear. Aged seven at the time, the Macon-born forward can recall the celebrations: “The two goals by Zizou [Zinedine Zidane] and people waving France flags in the streets.” He is now hoping to feed on the recollections of another former player, who remembers that epic adventure as if it were yesterday – his head coach Didier Deschamps: “He’s won the World Cup, so he knows what it takes.”

In Pogba we trust
Paul Pogba of France poses
© Getty Images

Paul Pogba’s name invariably comes up whenever the current Bleus side is the topic of conversation. Very much his own person, a spectacular player and a colourful presence on the pitch, the Manchester United man attracts some strong opinions, both positive and negative in nature. “We’re expecting big things from Paul – all his touches of brilliance and his long-range goals,” said the Atletico Madrid man. “We’re expecting him to get the crowd on their feet. There isn’t a leader in the side, but when Paul talks, everyone listens.”

Focusing on Pogba’s charisma, the Paris Saint-Germain forward said: “Paul is a creative player. He also makes his physical presence felt on the pitch and he’s a quality passer of the ball as well. He’s important. He’s a great player, and great players are always leaders. Wherever we go, he leads everyone, and you feel like following him too.”

The ultimate prize

Identified as potential winners of the World Cup Trophy, Les Bleus have every intention of hoisting it aloft, by entertaining means or otherwise. Their quest to do so starts against Australia in Kazan on Saturday 16 June. France’s new No10 has taken a close look at the Socceroos and has found similarities between them and USA, with whom the French fought out a 1-1 draw during their preparations for Russia 2018. “I know a few of their players,” said Mbappe. “They’re not very well-known, but they’re a good side and shouldn’t be underestimated. They’re outsiders and they’ve got nothing to lose.”

As for Griezmann, he has unhappy memories of UEFA EURO 2016 and France’s defeat in the final to Portugal. Winning in Russia is his ultimate goal: “We just missed out on being champions at the Euros. The time has come for us to set the seal on everything we’ve done in these last four years.”

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