June 17, 2014 / 4:53 PM / 3 years ago

Griezmann sees the funny side of France return

RECIFE Brazil (Reuters) - If you told Antoine Griezmann six months ago he would be playing for France at the World Cup, he would have laughed and thought you were joking after coming back from a ban that threatened his international future.

France's national soccer team player Antoine Griezmann attends a news conference at the theatre Pedro II at Ribeirao Preto, 336 km (208 miles) northwest of Sao Paulo, June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Griezmann has suddenly become a pivotal player in the French set up after a back injury ruled Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery out of the tournament and the Real Sociedad winger has grabbed his chance.

Yet his prospects were not looking so rosy when he was suspended for a year from the national team in November 2012 for having an unauthorized night out while on duty with the under-21s.

At the turn of the year, a recall was not on the horizon and he can scarcely believe he is now part of the furniture having played an important role in the 3-0 victory in their opening World Cup match over Honduras in Group E.

“I would probably have said, ‘Are you having a laugh?'” Griezmann was quoted as saying by French newspaper L‘Equipe when asked how he would have reacted six months ago to predictions of a call-up.

Griezmann was one of five players to be sanctioned by the French Football Federation after they spent a night in a Paris club between the two legs of a European under-21 Championship qualifier against Norway, which they lost 5-4 on aggregate.

He only made his senior debut in March in a 2-0 win over the Netherlands, but has since scored three goals in his five internationals.

It was an injury to Ribery that pushed him up the pecking order in Didier Deschamps’s squad, but he shuns comparisons with the Bayern player.

“I am Antoine Griezmann,” he said. “There is no comparison to make.”

Deschamps, however, seems convinced by his talents.

“I put him in the team because I thought he was capable of bringing a lot to the table,” the France coach said.

”On his debut, he was a bit timid but following the warm-up matches, he finds things easier, he plays with more freedom...

“What he has done is great, but he now needs to back it up.”

Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Ken Ferris

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