Olivier Giroud is well on his way to becoming the all-time top scorer of the French national team. His goals for Chelsea, including a spectacular bicycle kick against Atletico Madrid, may help him extend his international career. Only Thierry Henry is still above him with 51 goals. Not surprising for a footballer who has had to accept criticism from connoisseurs and colleagues throughout his career. “You shouldn’t compare Formula 1 racing with karting,” competitive striker Karim Benzema said on Instagram Live a few years ago when asked about a comparison between himself and the French national team striker. Benzema’s career for “Les Bleus” was sidetracked years ago, including a lawsuit over his possible involvement in an extortion case. At the last Euros Didier Deschamps finally asked Benzema to join the French team again. Benzema played a lot more and when he is substituted for Giroud, their contact is rather friendly.
Giroud has admitted that the criticism affects him – that of Benzema and certainly that of the French supporters – although he has never slept badly because of it: ‘I have a heart and emotions.’ His team mates have made fun of his low popularity, for example by singing ‘Le mal aîmé’ by Claude François for him, a pathetic song from 1974 about someone who needs love, but who gets it from no one: J’ai besoin qu’on m’aime mais personne ne comprend … : I need love, but no one understands me.
Last season Giroud has played so little (1167 minutes in all of 2020) that he has publicly expressed doubts about his future at Chelsea, also because national coach Didier Deschamps made it clear that his selection for the European Championship would be jeopardized if there were too few minutes of play. When he is on the field Giroud usually is incredibly effective. According to figures from Sky Sports television channel, Giroud scored a goal every 63 minutes in 2020, the best average of all players who scored at least five goals in the Premier League last year. Sergio Aguero (1 goal every 114 minutes), Mohamed Salah (1 goal every 121 minutes) follow at an appropriate distance.
Giroud explained to the television channel that his feints are the secret behind those many goals: “You pretend to go to the far post, but in reality you go to the first post. It’s all about this move that causes you to break free from your defender. Of course there are situations where it is so full at the first pole that you have to go to the second pole. It all depends on the situation.”
Giroud has been criticized in his career for his clumpsiness, but also because he hardly give any assists to team mates. It is true, in the French national team, in any case, he gives fellow players fewer assists than the other attackers. But plating passes that allow team mates to score is of course by no means the only way in which an attacker can serve his team. Giroud explains: “As number 9, sometimes you make the move to make sure there is space behind you, for the other player. If the cross comes to the far post and you are in front of the defender, you are there to score and you can surprise the keeper. That’s why I love making that move so much. I work on it a lot during training sessions.”
Giroud prays before every match
It is precisely with his back to the goal that Giroud is at his best. Then he has to score, as he did with his bicycle kick against Atletico, or put the ball back on a teammate and go for a one-two. “I did that a lot with Eden Hazard, for example.”
He does not make a cross, but Giroud does pray before every match. A tattoo on the inside of his right arm reads: Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not deprived of anyting.