At 36 years old, Olivier Giroud continues to deliver for France when called upon.
An injury saw Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema withdraw from the World Cup squad, opening up a place in Didier Deschamps’ XI — which the AC Milan striker has filled.
The veteran scored twice in France’s 4-1 victory against Australia in their opening match in Group D and started again when Les Bleus defeated Denmark 2-1.
With France having already qualified for the last 16, he has been rested for the final group game against Tunisia.
Now the nation’s joint-record goalscorer alongside Thierry Henry with 51 goals, we take a look at what the rest of this tournament has in store for Giroud.
No less a judge of strikers than Alan Shearer believes that despite his achievements, Giroud remains an underrated talent.
The Premier League’s all-time record scorer was quizzed on Giroud’s return to the French side.
Ex-England and Newcastle marksman Shearer, 52, said: “I think he is underestimated for what he does for the team.
“The loss of Benzema might not be a bad thing because of the way they set up.”
There is certainly an argument that Giroud was underappreciated during his time at Arsenal. In six years at the Gunners, he scored 105 goals in 253 games before being sold to Chelsea in 2018.
The arrival of first Alexandre Lacazette and then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang signalled the end of his career at the club, but four years later he is performing at a higher level than both of his replacements at Milan.
Wenger still a fan
Giroud’s former Gunners boss Arsene Wenger clearly remains a big fan of his compatriot.
After the win over Australia, Wenger said: “You have to kneel before his career. Nothing was given to him to start with.”
That career started at Grenoble in the French second tier. Having made a move to Ligue 1 with Montpellier, Giroud scored 21 goals to shoot the club to an unlikely league title in 2011-12, prompting his move to Arsenal.
At Chelsea, he struggled for playing time in the Premier League, but was instrumental in two European successes.
He scored 11 goals in the Europa League in 2018-19 — including the opener in the final — as his new side beat Arsenal 4-1.
Giroud was an unused substitute in the 2020-21 Champions League final win against Manchester City, having scored six goals in eight games to help Chelsea reach the continental showpiece.
He is still scoring Champions League goals, with four in six this season contributing to a total tally of nine in 19 for Milan. In his second season in Italy, Giroud looks set to smash last season’s total of 14 goals.
World Cup winner
As impressive as Giroud’s club career has been, it is at international level where he has really shone.
Just as his former manager Wenger alluded to, nothing came easily. Making his debut in 2011 during his title-winning season for Montpellier, Giroud remained something of a bit-part player for France until 2016.
Though picked in the squads for Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup, Benzema was France’s preferred striker.
It was not until 2016 when Benzema’s five-year international exile began that Giroud was able to stake his claim to be a regular.
Giroud scored three goals at Euro 2016 and though he did not find the net at the 2018 World Cup, he proved himself to be the perfect foil for the talents of Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.
Both Griezmann and Mbappe scored four goals in the tournament, as Giroud spearheaded a French team that beat Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup final.
After winning the World Cup, Giroud remained a starter for France until Benzema’s return in 2021 saw him resume his role as understudy.
In 2020, Benzema had been dismissive of Giroud’s abilities compared to his own, stating: “You don’t confuse Formula 1 with go-karting. And I’m being kind. Next… and I know I’m F1.”
Though Benzema is undoubtedly the superior talent, Giroud might just be a better fit alongside Griezmann and Mbappe.
With Benzema back in the team, France failed to live up to their reputation as favourites for Euro 2020, losing in the last 16 to Switzerland.
Benzema scored four goals in that tournament but Griezmman only found the net once, while Mbappe failed to score at all. With Giroud back in the team, Mbappe already has three goals at the 2022 World Cup.
Giroud may sit out the Tunisia clash, but it would be a major surprise if he did not return to start in the knockout rounds.
Despite being underrated and criticised throughout his career, Giroud now has the opportunity make history by becoming a two-time World Cup winner and France’s record goalscorer.