Antoine Griezmann Ready to Push Franck Ribery out of the France Line-Up

Andrew GibneyFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2014

Antoine Griezmann of France, center, heads the ball as Havard Nordtveit of Norway, left, and Martin Linnes look on during the friendly soccer match between France and Norway at the Stade de France stadium in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Tuesday, May 27, 2014.  France are preparing for the upcoming soccer World Cup in Brazil starting on 12 June. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Christophe Ena/Associated Press

The three friendlies that France will play before the World Cup in June have two main purposes: To keep the feel-good factor that was sparked after the 3-0 win over the Ukraine and to help Didier Deschamps confirm the few remaining places that are up for grabs in the starting XI.

Franck Ribery's place on the left of the France attack has been guaranteed for a number of years now, but on Tuesday night, Real Sociedad forward, Antoine Griezmann, made a case that he could be deserving of a starting spot against Honduras on June 15.

Griezmann made his France debut against Netherlands in March: It was a long awaited selection in the France set-up after completing his international ban for breaking curfew, and all eyes were on how he would slot into the side.

During the game there were a few inspiring moments, a few nice touches and overall it was a decent debut in front of a packed Stade de France. Deschamps was happy with the young forward's debut, and it was no surprise that Griezmann was named in the 23-man squad heading into the pre-World Cup friendlies.

Christophe Ena/Associated Press

With a back injury keeping Ribery out of the game against Norway, it was another chance for Griezmann to show what he could do. This time, the occasion did not get the better of him, with the 23-year-old finding his touch and impressing during the 4-0 win against the Scandinavians.

Within the first 40 seconds of the match, Griezmann was taking on the Norwegian right-back Martin Linnes and showing that he was definitely not going to let his second cap pass him by.

Griezmann has enjoyed an excellent season in Spain, scoring 16 goals as Real Sociedad finished seventh in La Liga. Very quickly you could see the qualities that helped the forward dazzle and delight the fans in San Sebastian. He looked very sharp in and around the box, and nearly gave France the lead when he reacted well to a wayward shot from Yohan Cabaye, Griezmann's header just flashing past the post.

In just his second game with this group of players, Griezmann showed a great understanding with Mathieu Valbuena and Olivier Giroud. Deschamps favours the 4-3-3 formation, with the wingers allowed to drift and find space, and Griezmann looked adept at communicating with Valbuena, rotating along the width of the front-line and linking up with all the players around him.

During his 64 minutes on the pitch he never quite got a clear glimpse of the Norway goal, but he was always active and looking to get in-behind the Norway back-line. There were some excellent pieces of movement at the end of the first half when he combined well with Giroud and instead of going for goal he looked to set-up a teammate.

With more confidence and minutes on the field, Griezmann provides more of a cutting-edge up-front; for a player that only has two caps for his country, he is a very exciting element of this France side.

Christophe Ena/Associated Press

For Griezmann to start against Honduras it would mean either Valbuena or Ribery would have to move to the bench. The diminutive Marseille man showed on Tuesday night just how important he is to this France team—having his hand in three of the four French goals—it is Ribery's place that should be questioned, and it's something that was unthinkable only 12 months ago.

It seems that ever since Ribery lost out on the 2013 Ballon d'Or to Cristiano Ronaldo, the Bayern Munich man hasn't quite been the tantalising winger that deserved to be nominated for the award. He only managed to score four goals in 2014 and was virtually invisible as Bayern were dumped out of the Champions League to eventual winners Real Madrid.

Christophe Ena/Associated Press

Niggling injuries kept the winger from playing as big a part of Bayern's season as he would have hoped, only starting 18 games during the Bundesliga season. Back in Euro 2012, Ribery was France's star-player, but the two impressive performances against Netherlands and Norway have come without Ribery on the pitch, and a few more eye-catching displays from Griezmann and Deschamps will be forced to make a huge decision going into the World Cup.

Ribery is now 31 years old, and he has already said that Brazil will be his last World Cup for France; it could be that if the trajectories of he and Griezmann continue as they are currently, he might go into the World Cup in Brazil as a substitute.

Right now the ball is in Ribery's court. He needs to get fit and show Deschamps and France he is still capable of producing world-class performances. If he doesn't, Griezmann is ready, willing and very able to take his spot.