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Griezmann is complete package, insists old pal Tiago

By Steven Beacom

French star Antoine Griezmann has been described as a 'complete player' by former Atletico Madrid team-mate Tiago Mendes.

Griezmann will make his World Cup bow today after revealing on Thursday night that he was staying with Atletico rather than making a big money move to Barcelona.

The 27-year-old is the star turn for a France team expected to go deep into the tournament. They start their campaign in Group C against Australia.

Griezmann won the Golden Boot as top goalscorer at Euro 2016 and, having clarified where he will play his club football next season, the gifted forward will be keen to have a major impact for his country in Russia.

Tiago, a Premier League winner with Chelsea and La Liga winner at Atletico, is sure he can.

"Antoine is a very intelligent player and really helps the team," said Tiago, speaking in Belfast where he has spent the last fortnight doing his Uefa B coaching licence. "He is a striker who can play on the left or right, but works for the team and in the dressing room he is a team player, always laughing.

"He is a top player and does everything from scoring goals to defending and helping the midfielders. He is a very complete player."

On Griezmann's decision about his future, Tiago added: "I thought he would stay. I felt he was doing the right thing to think well and then decide to do what makes him happy.

"I tried to tell him when I spoke with him to do what his heart was telling him to do."

Having spent a successful seven years with Atletico as a player, Tiago joined Diego Simeone's coaching staff last season.

The 37-year-old ex-Portugal star, however, is taking a break from the game he has distinguished since he was a teenager.

"This year I will stop," he said. "I made my transition from player straight away to be on the staff and this year I told them that I needed a break to be with my family and relax and travel a little bit and to learn from other coaches."

Tiago proved to be one of the most popular figures with those working on the IFA course run by Coach Education Manager Nigel Best.

"I was here to learn," said Tiago, a classy midfielder in his day.

"This was a big opportunity to improve myself and I need the qualifications. A Portuguese ex-player told me it was very good over here and I learnt a lot.

"It is important to try and observe everything at the beginning of our coaching careers and learn from small details."

Tiago did the IFA course with his pal Ricardo Carvalho, who he played together with at international level and for Chelsea.

There remains speculation about Antonio Conte's future at Stamford Bridge.

Tiago is a fan and is confident that, after a fifth-place finish last term, Chelsea can become title contenders again.

"In our time we won the title and had a great time when I was with Chelsea and now the club is a great club in England," said Tiago. "They have a great coach and I like the system they play.

"This season we (Atletico) played against them in the Champions League and they played very good games against us and I'm sure next season they will be fighting for the title."

According to the calculations of Australia coach Bert van Marwijk, the Socceroos will probably lose their World Cup opener against France and will need "luck" as well as team spirit to emerge with a result.

Australia have been written off by pundits and bookmakers, with most betting agencies rating them a 10/1 shot or worse of upsetting star-studded France, one of the tournament's most favoured sides.

Van Marwijk himself was not about to sugar-coat things on the eve of the match at Kazan Arena, but said his side had worked tirelessly to improve the odds.

"Normally, we play 10 times against France, maybe we lose eight, nine times," the 66-year-old Dutchman told reporters.

"We have worked hard to get a situation that maybe we lose five, six times (out of 10), but we also can win a few times and a few times draw.

"That's important. When you're well organised and believe in something and everybody knows exactly what to do and you have the guts to play and be yourself, then we have a chance."

Belfast Telegraph

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