Olivier Giroud, 36, ended the 2018 World Cup with a rare statistic for a striker on the winning team. The Frenchman didn’t score a single goal and didn’t even have a sure finish, playing in seven games, six of them in the starting line-up.
Even so, coach Didier Deschamps considers him an important part of the squad. So much so that he is in Qatar, called up for his third World Cup. He made his debut in 2014 in Brazil, where he scored one in the 5-2 defeat of Switzerland.
It is curious, however, that even with just one goal in 12 World Cup games, the striker could leave the Middle East as the top scorer in the history of the French national team. With 49 goals, he is just two short of tying Thierry Henry at the top of the rankings.
With the injury that ruled Karim Benzema out of the Worlds, he’s expected to be able to do just that. Not just for the personal brand, but to help the French repeat something that only happened twice in the history of the World Cups, with a team winning two titles in a row.
Only Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962) achieved this. If it joins this list, France becomes three-time world champion.
The walk of Deschamps’ team in Qatar begins this Tuesday (22). The first challenge will be against Australia, at 4 pm (Brasília time), at the Al Janoub stadium. The two teams are in group D, along with Tunisia and Denmark.
Without the Real Madrid (ESP) striker, voted the best player in the world last season by France Football magazine, the French coach has already warned that Giroud will be in the starting line-up against the Australians.
“He’s been with us for a long time and he’s a very useful striker because of the way he plays, even if he doesn’t score, it’s important,” declared the captain.
Benzema must not be too excited about the idea. In 2020, during a period when he was away from the national team, he participated in a live by French youtuber Mohamed Henni, when he was encouraged to make a comparison between him and Giroud. The response was controversial.
“The response will be quick. Don’t confuse F1 with kart racing. And I’m being kind. And I know that I am F1”, said the striker, who has scored 37 goals for France.
Benzema completed by saying, still, that “he [Giroud] It won’t be spectacular, it won’t be crazy, but in its own way, you’ll see more Griezmann and Mbappé, and that’s because Giroud does the heavy lifting.”
Giroud’s response was dry and direct. “I’m karting, but with a World Cup,” he said, referring to the 2018 title.
Currently wearing the Milan shirt, the player, who has the confidence of the coach, is going through a good phase. He is the Italian team’s top scorer this season, with nine goals.
The old controversy created by Benzema is part of a series of small clashes that, according to the French press, he tends to create in the locker room with his teammates.
For this reason, vehicles such as L’Équipe, for example, wrote that despite the striker’s cut adding to the list of casualties for the French team, his absence could also lighten the mood for the current world champions.
It’s just what they need most now to overcome the problems that have accumulated over the course of preparing for the Worlds. In addition to Benzema, Pogba, Kanté, Kimpembe and Nkunku also had physical problems that prevented them from playing in the Middle East.
Even so, France will have a strong team, led mainly by Mbappé, with important remnants of the last conquest, such as Griezmann.
That’s why Deschamps chose not to call anyone else to replace Benzema. In Qatar, the French squad will have 25 athletes available to the coach.
“I’m convinced the squad is strong enough with 25 players,” he said. “We have what it takes.”