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Soccer-France's Griezmann hoping to match Rodriguez exploits

Reuters

By Iain Rogers

BRASILIA, June 29 (Reuters) - While James Rodriguez has been banging the goals in at the World Cup finals, another talented forward born a few months earlier than the 22-year-old Colombian is still hoping to make his mark for France.

Long considered one of the most promising players of his generation, Antoine Griezmann has a similar profile to Rodriguez, who tops the scoring chart in Brazil with five goals ahead of the likes Lionel Messi and Neymar.

Both are blessed with superb close control and can strike the ball cleanly from distance, both have an eye for a killer pass and both are predominantly left-footed.

Rodriguez, who plays for Monaco, has made 26 appearances for his country, scoring 10 goals, while Griezmann was only called up for the first time in March and has since struck three times in seven games for Les Bleus.

Griezmann's international career was set back by a suspension for disciplinary reasons handed down by the France football federation (FFF) when he was playing for the Under-21 side, reportedly after an unauthorised late-night excursion.

Once the ban was lifted, France coach Didier Deschamps wasted little time in calling him into the side and he was a surprise inclusion in the squad for Brazil ahead of Samir Nasri.

"I have learned a lot (from the suspension)," Griezmann, who plays for La Liga side Real Sociedad, said in March.

"It has done me good. I am another person," added the 23-year-old.

"It's in the past now and I have proved I can be a good professional both on and off the pitch."

Griezmann had another fine season for Sociedad last term and his 16 goals in 31 La Liga games helped the Basque club finish seventh and qualify for the Europa League.

Born in Macon in central France, he joined Sociedad at the age of 13, and after breaking into the first team helped them win promotion back to the top flight.

He was a key performer in successive French youth sides and helped the Gallic nation win the European Under-19 Championship in 2010 and secure a fourth-place finish at the Under-20 World Cup in Colombia a year later.

"He's a type of player we did not have, a little bit Spanish because of his technique and accuracy in front of goal," Francis Smerecki, his former Under-19 coach, said in 2010.

BEAUTIFUL SHIRT

Griezmann played in France's three group games at the World Cup in Brazil without really shining.

If Deschamps gives him another chance in Monday's last-16 match against Nigeria in Brasilia he will be desperate to make the most of his match-winning talent in the same way that Rodriguez has done for Colombia.

"When you play for the national team you wear the colours of your country and it's the most beautiful shirt you can wear," Griezmann said after his call-up in March.

"I have no problem in playing where the coach wants me to play, even if that's in goal." (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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