A self-confessed lover of all things Uruguayan, from grilled meat to bitter-tasting infusion mate, France’s Antoine Griezmann knows not to expect any favorable treatment when confronted by close friend Diego Godin Friday’s World cup quarterfinal.
Teammates at Atletico Madrid, Griezmann and Godin have formed such a bond over the rugged defender is the godfather of Griezmann’s daughter Mia.
“Diego is a great friend. I am with him every day in Madrid. It is a nationality that I love, a people that I love. It will be a very emotional match for me,” Griezmann told reporters ahead of the clash in Nizhny Novgorod.
Griezmann’s love affair with Uruguay began when handed his breakthrough at Real Sociedad by Marthin Lasarte in 2009. Having Spain, Griezmann has always had a steady stream of Uruguayan teammates. He began drinking mate at Sociedad with former Uruguay striker Carlos Bueno and was persuaded to join Atletico in 2014 by Godin.
“He says he is Uruguayan,” said Godin, adding: “He made his debut with Martin Lasrte and had a lot of time for him. He has always been surrounded by Uruguayan players. He likes how we are and our customs: eating the baebecue, our music, he even drinks more mate than me!”
At Atletico, Griezmann is the star and top scorer. Godin, though, is the embodiment of the dogged, determined and defensively brilliant side Diego Simeone has created in the Spanish capital.
“They will waste time, they will fall down, surround the referee. It’s their game, it’s the same at Atletico. The match will be boring, they will want us to fall into their trap,” said Griezmann.
Much as they may not seem it, those are meant as words of respect. Griezmann turned down overtures from Barcelona to sign a new deal at Atletico just days after the World cup began.
“They give everything for their teammates, it’s beautiful,” he added.
Griezmann, though, knows Godin and another Atletico teammate, Jose Maria Gimenez, will not give French striker Kylian Mbappe the same space to exploit his pace that a disorganized Argentina did. Uruguay have conceded just once in winning all seven of their matches in 2018.
“Do not expect him to do too much of the same in the quarters,” warned Griezmann of heightened expectations after Mbappe drew parallels with pele when he became the first teenager since the Brazilian to score at least twice in a world cup match, “The Uruguayans will have watched the match, they will change the way to defend him. It’s up to us to put him in good positions,” he added.
After laboring through to the Last 16 as winners of Group C despite scoring just three goals, France sprang into life thanks to the speed of Kylian Mbappe in a thrilling 4-3 win over Argentina.
However, Griezmann has not yet hit top form in Russia.