PARIS: France head coach Didier Deschamps backed forward Antoine Griezmann to rediscover his best form after a difficult start to the season, ahead of a friendly against Wales at the Stade de France on Friday.
Griezmann has scored only three times in 13 appearances for Atletico Madrid this term and is without a goal for his club since netting a penalty against Chelsea in the Champions League on September 27.
The 26-year-old’s form is crucial for France’s hopes of winning the World Cup in Russia next year, but Deschamps is not worried about Griezmann’s six-game goal drought.
“Why would he not get better? Today, he’s not as good, but he has lots of experience,” Deschamps told a press conference on Thursday.
“I know what he’s capable of doing, and he’s part of the team. You are free to question the status and the value of Antoine Griezmann, but it’s not my case.”
Deschamps has been criticised for not knowing his best team after using 21 different players across France’s last four World Cup qualifiers, but he insisted that he side were not a work in progress.
The 49-year-old, who led France to the Euro 2016 final on home turf, will have to make do without a long list of injured players for the Wales game and Tuesday’s clash with Germany, with the likes of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante and winger Ousmane Dembele all sidelined.
“We are not a work in progress,” the 1998 World Cup-winning captain said.
“There is room for improvement. It’s not an excuse and I will never use it, but eight players are absent… That there is rotation seems normal to me.
“Now and in March, as I did before the last World Cup and the Euros, I will make sure to have second and third options. It’s to have as much information as possible before the final squad is named in May.”
– Coleman hints at Wales future –
This will be Wales’ first match since seeing their hopes of reaching a first World Cup since 1958 come to an end with a 1-0 home loss to the Republic of Ireland in their final qualifier last month.
Speculation about the future of manager Chris Coleman has mounted since that loss, but he hinted that he could stay on as coach after the friendlies against France and Panama on Tuesday.
“I don’t look at these two games as the end of anything, we will talk about my future after, it’s not the time now,” he said.
“I have to prepare for this meeting, to make sure that we’ll be competitive.”
Wales captain Ashley Williams also called for former Fulham coach Coleman to stay, ahead of the team’s first match in France since their shock run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals.
“It’s clear the way the players and fans feel about him,” the Everton defender said.
“We enjoy working with him and if it was up to us we would have him stay as long as possible.
“We always enjoy the camps, we give our all for him and I think that shows in the games.”