Relatively unknown in France, Antoine Griezmann ensured himself a place in the limelight by scoring twice and setting up another in the hosts' impressive 5-0 defeat of Austria in UEFA European Under-19 Championship Group A.
A latecomer to Les Petits Bleus' squad, Griezmann slipped off the radar of many in his homeland when he left France aged 13 to join the youth system at Real Sociedad de Fútbol. The winger's stock rose last season, however, with six goals in 39 appearances as the Basque club won promotion to the Liga as second division champions. "It feels strange because nobody recognises me here, while in Spain when I go to town all the people I meet ask for a picture or an autograph," said Griezmann, who scored on his U19 debut against Ukraine and on his first Sociedad start. "But it is an advantage to be a little incognito."
The Macon native is a unique player according to his coach, Francis Smerecki. His forays down the left flank have caused many a problem for opposition defences so far in Normandy, not least against Austria when he netted the first and third goals as France moved to the brink of the semi-finals. "
He's a type of player we did not have, a little bit Spanish because of his technique and accuracy in front of goal."
Griezmann, who models his game on new Manchester City FC acquisition David Silva, is enjoying his experience in Spain. "I feel great at Real Sociedad," he said. "It is a second family for me. I will enjoy playing in the Liga next season, in the best league in the world." Rather modestly, Griezmann described his performance against Austria as a "decent match", telling UEFA.com: "We thought more about the semi-finals than qualification for the [FIFA U-20] World Cup. Now we want to reach the final and win it because we're playing at home."
To achieve that goal, France supporters will no doubt be pinning their hopes on more dynamic displays from the blond-haired 19-year-old, who set the standard for the rest to follow in Flers on Wednesday. As for a happy ending, Griezmann said: "
The dream final would be against Spain but all finals are a dream for me."
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