Olivier Giroud has not scored a single goal for France at the World Cup but his mere physical presence will guarantee the Chelsea forward a place in Sunday’s final against Croatia.
Think of France’s attackers and the names Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann immediately come to mind, but Giroud has played every game in Russia, either as a starter or substitute, and he is integral to coach Didier Deschamps’ tactics.
“He hasn’t scored yet, but he is important to our game,” Deschamps said after the 2-0 quarter-final win against Uruguay, when Giroud’s aerial presence proved a problem for the South Americans’ previously solid rearguard.
“He contributes enormously so that Mbappe can switch from one side to another, or to create space for Griezmann,” French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet told AFP.
“When a centre-forward doesn’t score there are always questions but in terms of what he does he is beyond criticism.”
When France face Croatia in Moscow on Sunday they will be aiming to win the World Cup two decades on from their triumph on home soil.
Giroud has drawn comparisons with Stephane Guivarc’h, the centre-forward in the 1998 team who did not score once in the tournament.
“Guivarc’h didn’t score in the ’98 World Cup, (Christophe) Dugarry only scored once. If we win and I don’t score I won’t care a bit, I’ll be a world champion and I will be extremely proud,” he said.
“As long as the team is winning, I’m as happy as can be,” he added, explaining his role as: “I try to create channels and spaces for my teammates.”
Giroud’s goal drought in Russia disguises the fact that he is actually equal fourth on the list of all-time scorers for France, tied with none other than Zinedine Zidane on 31 goals.
In Froges, the small town near Grenoble in the French Alps where they grew up, Romain Giroud said his younger brother was tough enough to resist the barbs.
“Olivier is never as good as when he has his back to the wall. He thrives on adversity. He is very strong mentally and he knows exactly who he is,” he said.
“I know that he lets the criticism run off him because he is living the dream (at the World Cup).”