The understudy Giroud is once again the protagonist
|Host Nation: Qatar Dates: November 20-December 18 Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day by day TV listings – Full coverage details|
The perennial Olivier Giroud may have arrived in Qatar as an understudy to an A-lister, but he took on the starring role with ease as World Cup champions France put an ominous score on their rivals by sweeping Australia aside.
Giroud’s original place in France, the plans of coach Didier Deschamps was as a support Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, just to be the striker of Real Madrid eliminated from the tournament after suffering a thigh injury shortly after arriving here.
It pushed Giroud onto center stage, one he occupies comfortably after winning a World Cup medal in Moscow four years ago, when France beat Croatia 4-2.
And the 36-year-old once again used the platform to demonstrate his enduring quality with two goals and give further proof that he is one of the most underrated strikers of his generation.
Giroud did it all in tandem with the brilliant Kylian Mbappe, who scored one, had a hand in two more and played with the kind of smile on his face that will send shivers down France’s future opponents.
Mbappé is one of the great world names in sport and his opening at the World Cup contrasted with another of that elite group, Lionel Messi, who suffered the shame of being part of the Argentine team that had fallen victim to one of the biggest shocks of the tournament. when they lost to Saudi Arabia hours before
Australia briefly threatened another shock when they took the lead, but with Mbappé a tormentor from the first whistle and Giroud slotting into his role perfectly, it was never going to last as the 4-1 scoreline confirms .
Mbappe was involved in both of Giroud’s goals which moved the latter alongside Thierry Henry as France’s record goalscorer with 51 goals. He made an audacious backheel to release Adrien Rabiot, who set up a simple finish for Giroud to make it 2-1.
And then he distinguished himself at this World Cup with a fine header for France’s third before crossing perfectly for Giroud to round off a very impressive opening salvo from the reigning champions.
Mbappe, 23, will understandably start after that blistering display, but Giroud has always been happy living in the shadows with a threat.
Giroud’s track record is a testament to his quality, although he has often had to struggle to get the credit he deserves. The true value of this intelligent striker has been recognized at the end of his playing career.
He won three FA Cups at Arsenal, added another with Chelsea in 2018, scored as they beat the Gunners in the 2019 Europa League final and played a role as a key member of the ‘team that won the Champions League under then coach Thomas Tuchel in 2021. .
Giroud’s habit of collecting silverware carried over with him to AC Milan, where he won Serie A. The medals speak for themselves and he has his sights set on another in Qatar.
France go into this tournament without a host of key players, but when the replacements have the experience and track record of Giroud, it’s no wonder Deschamps was so relaxed about the absentees.
It is without Benzema, defender Presnel Kimpembe, midfield duo Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, as well as RB Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku, valued at £70m.
And despite the missing, it was a powerful statement of intent that France will not relinquish their crown as world champions easily.
It certainly didn’t matter here as Mbappe hit the groove straight away and the odd moment of nerves at the back was compensated by the attacking masterclass, led by Giroud.
France fell short and their pride was hurt Euro 2020 exit against Switzerland on penalties in the round of 16. They are determined to make up for it in Qatar.
Mbappé will be the star name and put aside all the recent turmoil and speculation about his future at Paris St-Germain.
He looked happy in his work as part of a France squad that came together to bow to their supporters after the final whistle as the clock ticked towards midnight in Qatar.
Giroud’s name was loudly chanted after his record equaliser, the extent of what he brings is fully appreciated by supporters who have traveled to Qatar with high expectations.
Good night for the headlines. A bad one for those hoping to succeed them as world champions if the performances of Giroud and Mbappé are any measure of things to come.
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