“Am I getting better, like a fine wine?” asked Olivier Giroud, rhetorically, after scoring the goal that set France on course for a World Cup quarter-final against England and which also surpassed Thierry Henry’s all-time French international goalscoring record.
The former Arsenal and Chelsea striker has never been the most appreciated of players but, after a career of 117 France caps, 52 international goals, a World Cup winners' medal, league titles in Italy and France as well as winners’ medals in the Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup, recognition is finally snowballing.
Arsene Wenger said last week that people should “kneel before” Giroud’s career and there is an argument even that France are more effective with him at the tip of the attacking formation than they would have been with the injured Ballon d'Or Karim Benzema.
That is because of the way that Giroud links the play and is so adept at also getting the best from Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Greizmann and Ousmane Dembele around him.
At 36, Giroud says that “a lot of friends” have told him that he is still improving and, after France's 3-1 win against Poland, stressed that he wants to prolong his playing career as long as possible. “I feel good, physically, and I still have the motivation to play at the best level,” he said. “As long as my body allows me I will carry on because I am a competitor and I am enjoying so much the game and this team. It is such an honour to represent France. I don’t want to put any limits.”
Giroud said that it was also “a big relief” to get the goalscoring record so that he can now focus simply on the team.
“We can move on, forget about this, because so many people were talking about it,” he said. “Now it is done, it is a good thing because the most important thing is to score more goals to help the team reach our target.”
France captain Hugo Lloris said that Giroud had become a leader and role-model to the next generation of French players.
“We have a lot of young players in the team and he’s an example,” said Lloris. “In your career, you have ups and downs but the most important thing is to stay consistent and strong in your mind in important moments and never give up. This is something Olivier did during his career and he is rewarded. But I know Olivier and for sure he doesn’t want to stay at this number. He wants to add a few more.”
France World Cup 2022 squad
France announced their 26-man squad on November 9, and named five Premier League starters: William Saliba, who has contributed to Arsenal's dazzling form this season, Raphael Varane, Alphonse Areola, Ibrahima Konate and captain Hugo Lloris.
Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Rennes)
Defenders: Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris St-Germain), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool), Jules Kounde (Barcelona), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamencano (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United)
Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real Madrid), Jordan Veretout (Marseille)
Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kinglsey Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (Paris St-Germain), Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt), Marcus Thuram, (Borussia Monchengladbach)
What are France's fixtures?
France will play England in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Qatar. The match will be played at Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday December 10, kick off at 7pm (GMT).
What is France’s World Cup record?
France are defending champions, having beaten Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 final at the end of a near faultless run, including victories over Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium.
That was their second World Cup victory following the Zinedine Zidane-inspired triumph, when he scored twice in a 3-0 battering of Brazil in the 1998 final.
However, it was arguably the great midfielder’s head-first assault on Marco Materazzi and subsequent sending off that cost his side in the 2006 final, which Italy went on to win on penalties.
France boast some of the most talented players in the world and possess a particularly fearsome attack. They should ease through their group yet, while it would be unwise to rule them out of winning it again, France have a history of implosion on the international stage. Additionally, no team has managed back-to-back world titles since Brazil in 1958 and 1962.
Argentina | Australia | Belgium | Brazil | Cameroon | Canada | Costa Rica | Croatia | Denmark | Ecuador | England | France | Germany | Ghana | Iran | Japan | Mexico | Morocco | Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Senegal | Serbia | South Korea | Spain | Switzerland | Tunisia | Uruguay | USA | Wales
What are the latest odds?
France are currently a best price of 23/5 to win the World Cup.