Olivier Giroud has actually never experienced anything like this. It’s World Cup – and everyone loves it. It’s the World Cup – and nobody thinks he’s the personified “anti-football”. It’s World Cup – and he scores two goals.
Now it has to be said that Olivier Giroud, 36, is a striker by trade, and as of this Tuesday he is even the record goalscorer for the French national team. But he has only entered the goal statistics at a World Cup once, in 2014 in a 5-2 win against Switzerland. Eight years ago in Brazil, Giroud was primarily a substitute. And four years ago in Russia he entered some kind of horror statistics, but with a happy ending. In seven games in which he was almost continuously on the pitch, forward Giroud has failed to find a single shot on target. And became world champion.
Olivier Giroud has often been laughed at and just as often ridiculed since his first international match in November 2011, which is probably part of being an angular centre-forward between nothing but magic feet. But in the 4-1 win over Australia on Tuesday night at al-Wakra’s Al-Janoub Stadium, everyone was hearty With Giroud laughed. The Australians were in the lead and the French had lost Lucas Hernández with a cruciate ligament tear. But then forced Les Bleus their side in that opening game, with goals from Adrien Rabiot, Kylian Mbappé – and twice Giroud. It was his number 50 and 51 in the national jersey. Only Thierry Henry, one of the 1998 world champions, has managed that many.
So Olivier Giroud can’t have done everything wrong in his career. But will the French survive it now, a tournament without a Giroud debate?
Mbappé is said to have been so angry with Giroud that he wanted to call a press conference
At the Pan-European Championships last summer, it was Giroud himself who threw the stone into the water so that it made a few waves. In the last test match before the tournament, Giroud remained quite pale in the penalty area – and then indicated that this was also due to the stubbornness of his strike partner Kylian Mbappé: “Sometimes you position yourself, but the balls don’t come.” In a rooster industry like football, a publicly spoken half-sentence is enough to set the store on fire. Mbappé is said to have been so excited that he wanted to call a press conference – but national coach Didier Deschamps knew how to prevent that. Instead, he sent the prankster Paul Pogba in front of the cameras, who assured with a grin: Tensions? We have them “only on the back”.
But the tone was set, the mood bad, especially since Deschamps had brought striker Karim Benzema back from his five-year ban for the European Championship. Benzema, Mbappé, Griezmann, Giroud, a lot of egos met in a small space. Giroud mostly sat on the bench. and Les Bleus said goodbye to Switzerland in the round of 16.
In Russia 2018, the Giroud debate was brought to a head by Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who after the against France lost semi-finals that he had “never seen a striker play so far from goal”. It was the starting point of the famous “anti-soccer” accusation, according to which the eleven with the most spectacular individual skills walled their way to the World Cup title. Olivier Giroud laughed heartily about it, dropped further back into midfield, fought for balls on the touchline, blocked the way for his colleagues in the penalty area, occasionally shot next to the goal – and in the end lifted the trophy.
And now, 2022 in Qatar: Looks like France may have lost a Benzema but won a Giroud – and unchained a Mbappé.
“I’m Formula 1,” says fellow striker Benzema. For Giroud, only the comparison with a go-kart remains
Karim Benzema, who, as a reminder, winner of the Ballon d’Or for the world’s best footballer, had left the base in al-Rayyan on Monday morning, a muscle injury in his thigh prevented him from playing again. But the wailing was soon followed by the realization that there could also be an opportunity, not least atmospherically.
Benzema and Mbappé are considered highly at odds. And to get an idea of Giroud’s feelings for the colleague from Madrid, one can recall the meanness that Benzema said on his Instagram page in March 2020, shortly before his pardon: Giroud could be “of a certain use”, “because he doesn’t shy away from working in the coal cellar”. But that’s nothing for the audience. And anyway, comparing Giroud with him, Benzema, is like comparing “Formula 1 with a go-kart”: “I’m Formula 1.”
Now, however, Benzema is in the garage in Madrid with muscle damage – and has to watch Olivier Giroud experience his Arab Spring. Only a few weeks ago his mere nomination was uncertain, a “new generation seemed to have already scrapped him”, the old go-kart, wrote the sports newspaper L’Equipe. But eleven goals and a league title with AC Milan were a strong sign. And now at 36 years and 53 days – ahead of Zinedine Zidane – he is the oldest goalscorer in the blues in major competitions, and becoming the second-oldest player ever to score twice in a World Cup match, behind famed Cameroonian Roger Milla (38 years 17 days) in Italy 1990.
And if you saw the bicycle kick in the game against Australia, which Giroud beautifully put in the air, then you suspect: the old go-kart accelerates again. The ball went past. But that’s traditionally a good omen for Olivier Giroud.