ISTRA, Russia (Reuters) - France coach Didier Deschamps is keeping faith in Antoine Griezmann even though his leading forward produced a poor performance in the 2-1 victory over Australia in their World Cup opener on Saturday.
Griezmann, who announced he was staying at Atletico Madrid before the Group C game, failed to make an impact at the Kazan Arena, although he did score Les Bleus’ opening goal with a second-half penalty.
He started alongside Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe with the experienced Olivier Giroud left on the bench.
Giroud came on 20 minutes from time and set up Paul Pogba for the 81st-minute winner as he made his height and strength count.
“He is very important physically,” said full back Lucas Hernandez. “When he is not there, you can feel his absence.”
Deschamps opted for Dembele’s speed, hoping he and Mbappe would form a fluid attacking line-up, but the most disappointing was Griezmann.
“Him being replaced was a one-time decision.” Deschamps told reporters on Sunday. “He is our lead forward and he will remain our lead forward. Perhaps he was not as good as usual. He must do more and he is well aware of that.
“But that does not call into question the fact that he will start on Thursday against Peru.”
Les Bleus will also need Pogba to support the forwards and the midfielder knows his performances will always be heavily scrutinized.
“Yes, I have less right than others to make mistakes,” said Pogba, who on Saturday became the first French player since Michel Platini in 1986 to score in consecutive World Cups.
Writing by Julien Pretot in Rostov-on-Don; Editing by Ed Osmond