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FIFA World Cup 2018: Goalless, but Olivier Giroud important cog in French wheel

Olivier Giroud’s continued involvement in the France national football team begs the question of what exactly he brings to the table as he is yet to score a goal in the FIFA World Cup 2018.

football Updated: Jul 09, 2018 19:08 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Tims, Saint Petersburg
FIFA World Cup 2018, World Cup 2018,Olivier Giroud
France's forward Olivier Giroud gestures as he gives a press conference at the press centre in Istra, west of Moscow on July 8, 2018, during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. (AFP)

On the surface, it hardly seems like the most ideal World Cup campaign for Olivier Giroud. The Chelsea forward, the third oldest player in the French squad behind Steve Mandanda and Adil Rami, has started all of France’s games after being used as a substitute in the opener against Australia but is yet to find his name on the scoresheet.

It hasn’t been a problem yet for France as goals have rained from their vaunted attacking line-up. But Giroud’s continued involvement in the France starting line-ups begs the question of what exactly he brings to the table.

To understand the same, one needs to look at three important goals Giroud has had a hand in this summer.

Against Australia, with the score level at 1-1, substitute Giroud’s clever layover for Paul Pogba just outside the box opened up space for the Manchester United midfielder to shoot.

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Pogba’s lofted shot took a lucky deflection off Aziz Behich before making its way into the goal.

In the next game against Peru, Giroud received Antoine Griezmann’s through on the left and shot at goal. His effort took a deflection and beat the onrushing goalkeeper.

Kylian Mbappe tapped in from close range in what turned out to be the only goal of the game. Against Argentina, Giroud led France’s counter-attack before setting up Mbappe for their fourth goal.

It’s not just about his involvement in goals though. Giroud’s hold-up play, movement and positioning have helped Griezmann and Mbappe thrive in their roles.

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The former Arsenal forward’s aerial ability has been an added advantage and he has used the same to help in the defensive front too.

Giroud’s presence has meant that both Griezmann and Mbappe have enjoyed more space up front with the 31-year-old forward dragging defenders away from the duo. “When he’s not there, we realise how useful he is,” Didier Deschamps had said of Giroud before the game against Peru.

Deschamps defended his striker’s scoring record in Russia again after the Uruguay game. “He does many things for the team to be balanced, and it is the players around him that benefit from his presence because he attracts a lot of attention from the defenders,” Deschamps had said.

Giroud himself isn’t too bothered about the lack of goals. Responding to queries from reporters at the club’s base in Istra on Sunday, Giroud cited France’s triumphant 1998 campaign when forwards Stephane Guivarc’h and Christophe Dugarry scored a combined total of one goal.

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“If we are world champions without me scoring, I don’t mind. It means that if I am on the pitch, the boss thinks I can help the team. I have my part to play,” he said.

First Published: Jul 09, 2018 19:03 IST