France’s Rabiot: ‘Easier’ if Mbappé, Griezmann in top form

Adrien Rabiot has said it will be easier for France to beat Spain in Tuesday’s Euro 2024 semifinal if underperforming teammates Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann can finally find their form at the tournament.

France have struggled for goals in Germany so far, netting just three times in their five games.

Mbappé, who has had to play in a mask after breaking his nose in the opening game against Austria, has scored once from the penalty spot, with Les Bleus‘ other two efforts both coming via own goals.

Griezmann, meanwhile, has yet to get off the mark at the finals.

“This is a team game and even if they are having some troubles, we have reached the semifinal,” midfielder Rabiot said in a news conference on Monday at the Allianz Arena.

“Team spirit is important and winning as a team is more important than individuals. For Kylian and Antoine, maybe their legs aren’t as fresh as they could be, but we are 100% behind them. We have blind faith in them. They are players can change a game at any point.

“It’s a team sport and when we have the captain [Mbappé] or Antoine experiencing a rough patch, it’s fine, we are there to support them. But obviously it would be easier if Kylian and Antoine were at the top of their game, which has not been the case so far.”

While Mbappé’s performances can be put down to injury problems — coach Didier Deschamps said he came into the tournament with a back issue and that having to wear a mask affects his in-game vision — Griezmann’s dip in form has been more of a surprise.

“I think everyone is surprised because we know what he is capable of,” Rabiot said when asked again about the displays delivered so far by Griezmann, who has played in different positions across the attack, including wide on the right at times.

“We saw what he did at the last World Cup, when he was possibly at his peak. I don’t know how to explain this spell, maybe physically he is not doing as well.

“Obviously we have [high] expectations with Antoine, we expect a lot more from him because he is capable of giving a lot more. But are we able to win without a great Antoine? We have a high level team.”

France’s struggles in attack have contrasted with a solidity in defence which has seen them concede just once at the tournament so far, a re-taken Robert Lewandowski penalty in the group stage.

Spain manager Luis de la Fuente was having none of the talk about Mbappé’s dip in form when he spoke with media later in the day on Monday.

“These type of players unpredictable, you don’t know when they will appear,” De la Fuente said. “They never disappear. In any case, Mbappe at 50% could still be 100% of any other player. He can make a difference in a second. He is a genius, a superstar.

“We will try to minimise his involvement and France’s chances. We are ready. We have the players and tools to do it, whoever is on the pitch. I have blind faith in this side.”

Given the quality they possess, the lack of goals in their matches has led to suggestions that they are a boring side to watch, something Deschamps took offence to when it was put to him by a Swedish journalist.

“If you’re getting bored, watch another game, that’s fine,” the France coach spat back in a news conference.

“You don’t have to watch. It’s the European Championships. It’s difficult for everyone. But we have been making French people happy through results, pulling games out of the bag, especially in a period that has been difficult for our country [during elections].

“But I am sorry if the Swedish are getting bored of our football, although it doesn’t bother me that much.”

France meet a Spain side in the semifinal that have won every game so far at Euro 2024, the only nation to do so, and Deschamps has been impressed by Luis de la Fuente’s team.

“Of course Rodri is essential to Spain, but it’s everyone in the team, everything they have done on pitch in this competition so far,” Deschamps said when asked about the importance of Manchester City midfielder Rodri.

“They are the side that has had the best Euros so far and left the best impressions after every game.”

Central to Spain’s progress to the last four has been the role of the wide players, Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams.

Yamal, who will turn 17 later this week, scored against France in the semifinal of the U17 Euros last summer, but has adapted seamlessly to the senior team, contributing a tournament-high three assists so far at Euro 2024.

However, Rabiot said he will have to do even more if he wants to reach Sunday’s final in Berlin against either England or the Netherlands.

“We have seen that he is a player who can deal with pressure very well,” Rabiot responded when asked if the occasion could weigh on the Barcelona teenager.

“He has a lot of qualities, as he has shown for his club, but also in a major tournament like this. We know what he’s made of, he’s kept a cool head so far.

“Obviously it could be difficult for him to deal with a semifinal in a big tournament. It’s up to us to put pressure on him and to take him out of his comfort zone. And to reach a final at the Euros, he needs to do more than he’s done up until now.”