Five facts about French hero Antoine Griezmann

Paris (AFP) – Five facts on Antoine Griezmann who rode to France’s rescue with a second-half double to dig the Euro 2016 hosts out of trouble and reach the quarter-finals with a 2-1 win over the Republic of Ireland on Sunday.

+ Too small

The scene of Griezmann’s heroics were particularly sweet for the Atletico Madrid forward as he grew up a huge Lyon fan. He even trained with the French team a youngster, but was never offered a deal because hew as considered too small.

“It was our biggest mistake in years, a historic mistake,” Lyon’s chief scout Gerard Bonneau told Spanish newspaper AS.

Griezmann, 25, joined Spanish club Real Sociedad when he was 13 and went on to make over 200 appearances for the Basques before joining Atletico for 30 million euros in 2014.

Lyon were on the receiving end of Griezmann’s talents as he scored a spectacular overhead volley in a Champions League playoff which took Sociedad into the group stages in 2013.

+ Spanish temper

Despite spending all of his adult life in Spain, Griezmann insisted he was not tempted to switch allegiance to the European champions, but has developed a Spanish temperament.

“I think in French, but I get angry in Spanish,” he told Le Parisien before the tournament.

“I’ve always had the same idea (to) play for Les Bleus because I was born in France and grew up watching the likes of (Zinedine) Zidane and (Thierry) Henry during the 1998 World Cup, so my dream is to live and repeat that with the French shirt.”

+ World’s top three

Griezmann has scored 57 goals in two seasons at Atletico to be hailed as a worthy heir to star strikers such as a young Fernando Torres, Sergio Aguero, Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa.

Atletico boss Diego Simeone believes only Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi can be considered better than Griezmann.

“He has worked very hard, pushed himself and knows how to listen,” said Simeone.

“The best way to improve in any job is to listen. Without doubt he is one of the best three players in the world.”

+ Mate lover

Griezmann’s ability to adjust to hispanic culture even stretches to South America as he enjoys a particularly close relationship with Atletico’s array of Argentines and Uruguayans.

He is often seen supping on Mate – a herby caffeine rich hot drink popular with South American players.

“I don’t change my habits. I have a mate every morning with (Diego) Godin and (Jose) Gimenez,” he said before Atletico’s Champions League final with Real Madrid.

+ New contract

Despite the immense disappointment of missing a penalty in normal time as Atletico lost to bitter local rivals Real Madrid in the Champions League final for the second time in three seasons, Griezmann’s 32-goal season with Atletico has been rewarded with a new bumper contract until 2021.

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