A day when an angel fell, it was an underappreciated man who reminded the world of his endearing, unending love for the game and the grit to continue even when nobody is paying attention.
But here, the chanters of ‘Allez Les bleus’ at the Al Janoub Stadium – another merciless drive inside the heart of the desert country dotted with patches of man-made oasis – rose in unison to salute Olivier Giroud, the scorer of two goals in France’s 4-1 victory over Australia.
The AC Milan striker was here in Qatar only to be a support act to the Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema and the young phenomenon from last World Cup, Kylian Mbappe (still young, but now a diva). But a last-minute injury to Benzema put Giroud suddenly in the spotlight like many times before, and like many times before he delivered yet another unselfish, untiring performance for the team.
He is now the joint highest scorer for France alongside Thierry Henry and also a Europa Leagues, Champions League, FA Cup, Ligue 1, Serie A and a World Cup winner. But Giroud still finds little love.
Despite losing a string of players, Didier Deschamps – a World Cup winner both as a player and coach – was not too worried about breaking the Cup winners’ curse. (Champions France – 1998, Italy – 2006, and Spain – 2010 lost their opening encounters in the next World Cup.) He had faith in Giroud. “Giroud is a veteran of our squads and the skills he has; even when he is not scoring goals, he is important for the team. Inside the squad, and I am sure in France, people love and appreciate him,” Deschamps had declared ahead of the match.
Here, Giroud was finally seeing the physical manifestation of that love, with Deschamps – usually very unemotional, French-like – the first to give him a bear hug when he was finally substituted after another 89 minutes of selfless running.
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