- Olivier Giroud in some of the best form of his career
- Playing older brother role to the younger players
- Set to meet two club-mates in the semi-final
By Adrien Gingold with France
At the age of 31, Olivier Giroud is peaking at just the right time and giving free rein to his talent at the FIFA World Cup™. And even if France’s highest scorer among active players (with 31 goals) has yet to find the back of the net in Russia, he is cutting a relaxed and confident figure at the tournament.
The striker always begins training sessions by warming up on his own but this by no means indicates that, as a senior player, he is struggling to fit in with what is a particularly young squad.
"You won’t necessarily find me on the PlayStation with them, but I feel like a kind of older brother," he explains. "I want to help this young generation to go as far as possible and do as much as I can."
Despite his 79 caps, he began the tournament on the bench, having taken a nasty knock in a warm-up match that left him with an impressive scar. Coach Didier Deschamps played Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele together for the first time up front and came to the following conclusion: "You realise just how important Olivier Giroud is when he isn’t there."
Giroud was brought into the line-up for the following match, against Peru, where his ball-holding, aerial domination and constant running into the channels added an extra dimension to the team.
The Chelsea striker certainly has a great deal of footballing intelligence, but that is not all that he brings to the table, as his team-mates attest. "I like his spirit," says Benjamin Pavard. "He gees us up, he finds the right words before a match to get us to go above and beyond. He’s a great forward who has scored goals wherever he’s gone, and more than that, he’s a great guy. I love him."
The big brother uses his experience, gleaned from more than ten years as a pro, to steer his team-mates in the right direction. "My career’s been full of ups and down," he says. "I’ve not taken the easiest path, but I’ve enjoyed every element of it. In the end, hard work is what pays off every time."
Giroud spent time in the second and third divisions in France before making his mark in the top flight with Montpellier in 2010. "The World Cup is a childhood dream. I keep telling the youngsters to make the most of every second."
The striker feels that he "may be enjoying the best moment of (his) career", and he is hoping to make it last a little longer by helping France overcome Belgium in the semi-final. "We’re focusing on one thing – beating Belgium and making it through to the final. It promises to be an exciting match."
There will be some familiar faces for the recent Chelsea signing in the opposing line-up, having spent the last few months alongside Eden Hazard, "an absolute genius who is one of the top three that I’ve ever played with". He has also been facing Thibaut Courtois, "a great goalkeeper with an impressive wingspan" in training, too.
Giroud will be looking to find a way past the both of them to finally open his account in Russia – not that his lack of goals is currently affecting him. "If we win the World Cup and I don’t score, that will not be a problem in the slightest!" he grins.