Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois isn’t a man who puts many filters between what he thinks and what he says.
So when France beat Belgium 1-0 in the World Cup semifinal, in a match overflowing with spectacular players but played in a safety-first trudge, the Real Madrid transfer target let it be known that he wasn’t pleased with what he perceived as ‘anti-football’ from the winners.
“France heads a corner and does nothing more than defend. [They] are just an anti-football team. I’ve not yet experienced a striker playing so far from goal.
“The team in front of us has defended well with 11 players 35 meters before their goal. And they’ve done this the whole tournament. Against Uruguay they score with a free kick. Today a goal from a corner. Pity, but that’s football.
“It’s their right to play like that, because they know we’re having a difficult time dealing with it, but it is not nice to see. This team was no better than us. I would have preferred to have lost in the quarter-finals to Brazil, at least that was a team that wanted to play football.”
-Thibaut Courtois; source: beIN Sports via F365
Accusing France of anti-football because they parked Olivier Giroud 30 metres back from the Belgium’s penalty box was a comment ripe for picking. After all, the man who made that comment spent his last seven seasons playing under some of the most pragmatic coaches in the game at Atlético Madrid and Chelsea, namely Diego Simeone, José Mourinho and Antonio Conte.
He must also have forgotten that Belgium were not a proactive side against Brazil in the quarterfinals. They set up in the counter, got themselves two goals out of a set-piece own goal and a fast break, and then closed up shop at the back. If it wasn’t for his great performance under the goalposts, as Brazil amassed 26 shots total and 9 on target, they wouldn’t have met France in the first place.
Those were points not lost on Antoine Griezmann, who arrived at Atlético just Courtois was heading back to Chelsea from his three-year loan at the Spanish club. On Friday, France held their first press conference since Courtois spoke, ahead of Sunday’s final against Croatia. Not surprisingly, the anti-football comment came up. And Griezmann had a response ready.
“Does Thibaut Courtois think he plays Barcelona football at Chelsea?
“We don’t care about it. We don’t care how we played...we won. [And] I don’t care how, I want a second star to be on this shirt. That is all.”
-Antoine Griezmann; source: Telegraph
Courtois may yet end up playing “Barcelona football” if he sticks around for Maurizio Sarri and learns to use his feet properly, but neither of those seem like likely outcomes at this point. Griezmann’s retort on the other hand is a pretty obvious one, and Courtois really should have seen it coming before he ever opened his mouth. In fairness, that’s not easy to do when speaking right after an emotional loss, especially for Thibaut “no-filter” Courtois.