France have become World Champions in Russia despite the fact that attacker Olivier Giroud had scored no goal. A striking fact. Nevertheless, the attacker was indispensable for his team’s success.
80 minutes passed already when Olivier Giroud was substituted without scoring in the 2018 World Cup final. "If we win and I do not score a single goal, I will not care about it. The important thing is that we would become World Champions," the center forward had said shortly before in a defiant manner. And he was likely to be right. Les Bleus beat contenders from Croatia by 4:2 – again without any contribution from their attacker. The fact that he did not once score during the entire tournament sounds astonishing.
Numerous Internet users are mocking at the 31-year-old: "How much did Giroud pay for the final ticket? He had had the best view of the playing field for 80 minutes," the Frenchman is labeled as a spectator on Twitter. But coach Didier Deschamps continued counting on the ineffective attacker of Chelsea match after match – because in addition to his experience, he brought an especially large portion of team spirit into matches of the French. "If I score, that is fine. But first of all, I devote myself to my team," he explained at a press conference.
Already before the tournament in Russia, Giroud had had to learn to deal with criticism. Before the 2016 European Championship in France, coach Deschamps had been forced to stand by the player. A year ago, he had already been challenged in this matter before Giroud made the first hat trick in his career as a player of the national team in the 5:0 win in a friendly match against Paraguay. The spectators in Rennes celebrated the attacker frantically at that time – but he remembers whistles well, too.
On the way across the whole playing field
And at the World Cup, there was a miserable evidence of the 31-year-old’s dissatisfying performance. In seven matches, he had tried to score nine times for 546 minutes played in total; none of the shots, however, were successful. But in spite of his thoughts of the squad, Giroud also brought consistency into matches of his national team. With 31 goals, he is the third best scorer in the history of La Grande Nation. Only Michel Platini (40 y. o.) and Thierry Henry (48 y. o.) scored more.
Giroud is a centre forward of the most vivid classic style. At his club Chelsea, which he switched to from the local rival Arsenal at the beginning of the year, he is considered a "physically vigorous attacker" who is "aggressive in the air and moves in cold blood in the penalty area". Being 1.92 meters tall, Giroud is a giant, less nimble than his young attacking partner Kylian Mbappé, who covered dozens of meters in sprint and who outplays his opponents with a brilliant technique. "You cannot ask him to tackle the ball and outplay three players," Deschamps said about the attacker once. And also together with agile Antoine Griezmann, a masterful dribbler, almost 20 centimeters shorter, Giroud appeared in Russia rarely.
Instead, the French could count on Giroud in their own half. Again and again, the attacker supported the active defense. "He works a lot, it is great for us," Matuidi praised his teammate after the semifinal win over Belgium. And also coach Deschamps emphasized the great role of Giroud in tactics.
Giroud had to keep his promise
This was also proven by the statistics: Giroud ran 56.4 kilometers in seven matches, played much in defense mainly in the semifinal match against Belgium, outplayed his opponents himself and was good in keeping possession. He cleared the ball ten times, committed 14 fouls – but also won the ball 51 times. For Giroud, moving back is also a matter of course: "Defense also gives pleasure if one player is ready to help another in the squad," he commented on the French playing style.
Therefore, he felt "as a kind of big brother" in his team. In this connection, he had always advised France, the second youngest team of the World Cup, "that they should enjoy every moment. The World Cup is a childhood dream." And Olivier Giroud lived it out also by himself. "I was on the bench for the last ten minutes, and when the final whistle blew, all the inner barriers were broken, I just ran and cried. We fell to the ground and exploded with joy," he said after the final match against Croatia on the TV channel TF1.
Now Giroud had only one promise to carry out when nothing had already come out of his attacks. Before the World Cup, the 31-year-old had announced to become bald if his national team got the title. "I will redeem my bet and shave my head," the attacker promised. But there is one thing: "Please only after the baptism of my third child!"