Olivier Giroud believes he deserves to start for France in their FIFA World Cup™ opener against Honduras on Sunday after impressing in their three warm-up matches.
The 27-year-old Arsenal striker, scorer of eight goals in 30 appearances for his country, was playing in the French second division with Tours four years ago when the last World Cup finals took place and he is keen to make up for lost time in playing as much as possible in Brazil. An opportunity has opened up for him in the front three after star winger Franck Ribery was ruled out of the finals with a back injury last Friday.
France coach Didier Deschamps reacted by moving Giroud's long-time rival Karim Benzema out to the left and gave Giroud the lone striker role at least for the 8-0 thrashing of Jamaica last Sunday. However, it was Benzema and young rival Antoine Griezmann - who came on as a substitute - who caught the eye both scoring doubles while Giroud got one.
Despite that Giroud is in no doubt about who should start up front. "Yes, of course," was Giroud's frank response when asked if he felt he merited a start in France's Group E game in Porto Alegre. "I am happy with how I played in the warm-up games. I feel on form and very positive. I hope to get a lot of playing time."
Giroud rejected claims he was putting pressure on the coaching staff saying he was just "ambitious" and wanted his chance to prove he was the man for the job. The striker, who earned his £9.6million ($16million) move to Arsenal after scoring 21 goals for Montpellier when they won the French title in 2012, has never been fully able to establish himself as the undisputed No1 striker since winning his first cap in 2011.
However, after scoring a brace in a friendly against Australia last October, at a time when Deschamps continued to persevere with Benzema, he again expressed his desire for more game time. "I don't want to be the guy who is always whining and isn't happy but it was legitimate to say that I wanted to play more," he said.
However, while Deschamps gave him his wish in the first leg of the World Cup play-off with Ukraine he failed to produce the eye-catching performance he so wanted to deliver. Giroud, whose most important goal came for France in a 1-1 draw with world champions Spain in their World Cup qualifying match for these finals, failed to score in the 2-0 defeat.
Benzema then scored in the second leg which saw France win 3-0 and book their ticket to Brazil. Since then, thanks to the renaissance of Benzema, the normal order seems to have been re-established, but Giroud arrived at the French training centre at Clairefontaine for his side's World Cup preparation clearly determined not to play a supporting role. "Since the start of our preparations, he has been in a good physical condition," said Deschamps.
Giroud said that there was no rigid system to how he and Benzema were told to play. "The coach expects a lot of us. He wants us to be mobile, to combine, that our movement is intelligent and that we occupy all the free space," he said.
Giroud's physique and robust style of play could come in very handy against Honduras, a team renowned for their rugged approach, if it is to allow France the freedom to show their technical quality.