He never goes out without his maté (a tea-like infusion popular in South America), speaks perfect Spanish, and has a daughter whose godfather is a Uruguayan central defender. But if you think we are talking about a Celeste player, then you would be wrong.
The man in question is France striker Antoine Griezmann, who spoke to us about the upcoming quarter-final between the two sides, an occasion that is sure to be an emotional one for a player who describes Uruguay as his “second country”.
Just hours after helping France beat Argentina to move into the last eight at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, the Bleus front man was marveling at Uruguay’s defeat of Portugal. “I’m very emotional about them qualifying because I love the country and the people,” explained Griezmann. “I’ve got a lot of friends there. It’s going to be a great game to play in and a really emotional experience too.”
The France man, who even describes his style of play as “Uruguayan, not unlike Cavani”, began his love affair with the country of three million at Real Sociedad, where his coach was Martin Lasarte. Thrown in at the deep end by the former Uruguayan player, Griezmann was taken under the wing of another Charrua, team-mate Carlos Bueno.
It was the ex-Paris Saint-Germain man who introduced Grizou to maté – which the Frenchman now takes with him on every trip – and who made him fall in love with another of his former clubs: Penarol. Griezmann is such a diehard, in fact, that he never misses a match and knows all the fans’ songs.
“I’ve always had at least one or two Uruguayans at my clubs,” said Griezmann, who hung out with Diego Ifran at the San Sebastian club and then Christian Rodriguez on his arrival at Atletico Madrid, where he has also formed close friendships with Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin.
“Diego is a great friend,” continued the France forward. “I’m with him every day, on and off the pitch, and that’s why he’s the godfather of my daughter. He made me want to sign for the club.” Discussing the Frenchman’s love of all things Uruguayan, Godin said: “He loves who we are, our customs and our music, and he drinks more mate than me.”
Aside from his feelings for the country, the 27-year-old attacker also appreciates the playing style of a nation that won the inaugural FIFA World Cup in 1930. “The way they play and their spirit remind me of my club: very tough at the back and lethal up front. To my mind, Edinson Cavani is the best striker. He works for the team, he’s always calling for the ball, and he never gives up on anything. And when he’s in the box, he just needs a touch or two to get a shot off.”
An integral part of Antoine Griezmann’s career, Uruguay and he are about to come together again, but this time on opposing sides of the pitch, in a love match in which there can be no room for sentiment.