At over 36 years old, Olivier Giroud remains an important player for a national team that can rely on Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappe or Antoine Grizmann in attack.
Didier Deschamps announced France’s squad for the World Cup in Qatar and, for the first time in history, “Les Bleus” are going to the final tournament with two footballers over 36 years old. One is goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, who is approaching 38 years of age. The other is Olivier Giroud, who just turned 36. Both also featured in Russia’s winning campaign in 2018, but only the AC Milan striker was a regular in Deschamps’ starting XI.Used in all 7 games 4 years ago, the Chambéry native finished the competition without a shot on target, a terrible statistic for a top flight, but the partnership he had with Mbappe and Griezmann and his physical presence offensively they contributed enormously to France’s eventual success.
More than once, Deschamps defended him and insisted on the crucial role Giroud played in France winning their second world title. And yet, his presence in the team would not have been possible without the absence of Benzema, exiled from the national team following the Valbuena blackmail scandal in which he was involved. When the Real Madrid star returned, Giroud’s minutes were reduced. And after last year’s European Championship, it was practically put on hold. Since the summer of 2021, the veteran striker has been called up by Deschamps only twice. Each time, only because Benzema was injured. Even so, he did not simply show up.
In the only 4 games he played for “Les Bleus” in 2022, Giroud scored 3 goals, reached 49 successes in the shirt of the current world champions, and needs only two more to equal the all-time top scorer time of the French national team, Thierry Henry. So we have a World Cup winner, the second-highest goalscorer in his country’s history, and a fundamental player in his club side, the title holders in Italy. Can you imagine that such a footballer could have been absent from Qatar? And yet, there was that possibility…
After the Euros, where he played very little anyway, Giroud didn’t catch the national team again until March of this year. When he returned, he did so with a goal against Ivory Coast. The performances in Milan practically forced Deschamps to call him up. Now, he is preparing for the third World Cup of his career, and France can count on a player who knows his place well and can be a “supersub” in difficult moments. “Even when I’m on the bench, I shoot for the team,” he said in September, a statement by which he wanted to show that he accepts any status in the national team.
So what can Giroud offer to a national team that already has a fearsome attack for any opponent? First, the vast experience accumulated over a formidable career. Champion in France and Italy, winner of the Champions League and Europa League, years in a row at a high level in the Premier League. Secondly, the know-how. Giroud already knows how to win the World Cup by sacrificing himself for the common good. Such a player can make things easier for Benzema, Mbappe or Dembele, something that was very well seen in Russia at the previous edition of the WC.
Last but not least, Giroud proved that he is the man for big occasions. Last season in Serie A, he decided the derby with Inter and the match with Napoli, which proved decisive in winning a Scudetto that Milan had been waiting for 11 years. In the current edition of Serie A, he scored again in the Derby della Madonnina against Napoli and rescued the Rossoneri in the tricky match against Spezia, which he solved with a spectacular execution, the kind of moment that has been characteristic of his whole career. Not forgetting the huge contribution in the victory with Salzburg (4-0), which took Milan to the last 16 of the Champions League after almost a decade.
Even the coach of a world champion cannot ignore such a player.