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France’s Oliver Giroud reaches scoring record milestone

Henry was France’s top goal scorer of all-time but his record was under threat from Giroud at the 2022 World Cup.

Doha (Qatar)Update:
France's forward #09 Olivier Giroud (L) celebrates with teammates after he scored France's fourth goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group D football match between France and Australia at the Al-Janoub Stadium in Al-Wakrah, south of Doha on November 22, 2022. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Olivier Giroud is a rare breed. He is one of the few strikers to have won the World Cup without scoring a single goal during the entire tournament. France were crowned champions in Russia in 2018 yet Giroud didn’t even have a shot on target despite playing all seven matches from the group stage to the final. He was however a key player for the team in other ways, contributing a couple of assists in the games against Peru and Argentina.

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At Qatar 2022, Giroud had an extra impetus to get on the scoresheet. The AC Milan player started the tournament within reach of France’s all-time goal scoring record which has been held by Thierry Henry since 2010. Giroud had to score twice during the World Cup to match the Arsenal legend’s record of 51 goals for Les Bleus.

Henry’s goals came in 123 appearances at full international level - an average of 0.41 goals per game, while Giroud’s has a slighter better average of 0.43 after bagging 49 goals in 114 games. As it turned out, it wasn’t going to take long.

Giroud makes it 51 for France

The first game for France in Qatar started with a surprise, as underdogs Australia took a very early lead. After Argentina’s defeat to Saudi Arabia, thoughts were turning to another big shock. Then we were reminded of the talents of the reigning champions.

Within the coming minutes came two goals for Giroud, pulling him level with Henry on 51. Surely only injury can stop him from breaking it before this competition is over.

When asked about the record at a recent press conference, Giroud says it’s not something he thinks about. He insists that his role in the national team is to give his best and help his team mates. Despite his extraordinary statistics, Giroud’s duties in Deschamps’ team centred around combining with strike partners Griezmann and Mbappé. Both players have a different role to play in Deschamp’s France than they have with their respective clubs - their ability to shake off rival central-backs, be targetmen for long balls and hold onto it to free up space is one of the key assets of the reigning world champions.

Back in September, Kylian Mbappé freely admitted in a mixed zone interview after a game against Austria that he feels more comfortable playing with a pivot like Giroud. At PSG, Mbappé is an out-and-out centre-forward but with France he plays between the lines, being more of a player involved in the creation of moves than finishing them off. At the same time, he has players like Giroud who can release him. Qatar will likely be Giroud’s last tournament with France. He recently turned 36 and missed several of the team’s Nations League qualifiers. Nevertheless, he says he feels in fine shape physically and is only thinking about the present.

France in training in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Anthony Bibard/FEP/Icon Sport via Getty Images)
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France in training in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Anthony Bibard/FEP/Icon Sport via Getty Images)FEPGetty

His nine goals for Milan this season have strengthened his position for the national team. “He has never been criticized, even if there are people who criticize for criticizing’s sake. He has been adored in France for a long time”, says Deschamps, who has been one of his great supporters in the last decade. After Benzema’s return to the national team, in June 2021, his importance with Les Bleus decreased considerably. But his move to Milan and his return to form has allowed him to play his third World Cup, and probably his last, in which he will try to equal Henry before giving way to Mbappé, who with 28 goals is already halfway on the road to break the records of both players.


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