Giroud gets chance to spearhead France’s attack at World Cup

Nov 19, 2022, 9:12 PM | Updated: Nov 20, 2022, 11:48 am

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Karim Benzema’s injury has opened the door for veteran striker Olivier Giroud to spearhead France’s attack at the World Cup in Qatar.

Benzema entered the tournament as arguably the world’s most complete forward while Giroud was a likely substitute in the France team. Last month, the Real Madrid star Benzema won the Ballon d’Or. Then his World Cup ended when he tore a thigh muscle in training on Saturday.

With Benzema out of the tournament, Giroud is expected to move from the bench to a starting role against Australia on Tuesday in the Group D game. He has extra motivation to do well, since he is just two goals shy of Thierry Henry’s France record of 51 goals.

“For me it’s a gift to play in this World Cup, I’m treating it like a young player appearing in his first World Cup. It would be a bonus to beat Titi’s (Henry’s) record,” Giroud said. “I’m very happy to be part of this adventure. It’s a great source of pride.”

The 36-year-old striker has looked sharp with AC Milan this season and his hunger is evident.

“I feel in good shape,” he said. “I’m not setting myself any limits. My determination to stay at the highest level remains the same.”

It’s another swing in fortunes between Giroud and Benzema, and this time the pendulum has moved in Giroud’s favor.

Because last year, it was Benzema’s unexpected recall that saw him take Giroud’s long-standing starting place at the European Championship — where Benzema led Les Bleus with four goals.

Giroud’s international career appeared to be on the demise when he was again overlooked by coach Didier Deschamps for Nations League games in June — even though he was doing well with AC Milan and helped the Italian club to the Serie A title.

Giroud’s relationship with Deschamps was once strong. But it soured as Benzema’s partnership with Kylian Mbappe flourished, each scoring when France won the Nations League last year then scoring freely together in following games.

His back to the wall, Giroud did what he’s always done: prove any doubters wrong.

He had done that at Arsenal, helping the London club win three FA Cups.

Same at Chelsea, leading the competition with nine goals when it won the Europa League in 2019; then playing a key role in Chelsea’s Champions League success in 2021.

At Milan, he overcame hard-to-please fans who harshly compared him to club teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Now those fans adore Giroud after he helped Milan win its first Serie A title in 11 years — scoring in big games and becoming a firm favorite at San Siro Stadium thanks to his work rate and unselfishness.

This season he’s carried on, helping Milan return to the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time in nine years.

“You need to be decisive in your club and that’s the case with Milan,” Giroud said. “It’s given me a lot of confidence.”

Still, Deschamps made it clear when he announced his World Cup squad that Benzema was No. 1 in attack and Giroud was behind him in the hierarchy.

Their destinies have been interlinked for a decade and it’s sometimes looked like a personal duel between them.

When Benzema endured a long goal drought in 2013, a frustrated Giroud sat glumly on the bench feeling he should have a shot.

But then Benzema led France in scoring at the 2014 World Cup, with Giroud playing second fiddle.

Things dramatically changed when Benzema was banned from the national team for his alleged role in a sex-tape scandal in October 2015 that led to a six-year exile from Les Bleus.

Giroud took his chance and scored against Cameroon in a warmup before Euro 2016. But remarkably, French fans jeered him off the field. Some felt he didn’t deserve to play ahead of the more skilled Benzema, who once cruelly compared their different skill levels to a Formula One car and a go-kart.

That was unfair to Giroud, who has sometimes missed good chances but is a fine all-around striker with more technical ability than many observers give him credit for.

Giroud did well at Euro 2016, forging a fine partnership with Antoine Griezmann as France reached the final. They played up front together with Mbappe when France won the 2018 World Cup, both competitions without Benzema.

Benzema took Giroud’s place at Euro 2020, but on Saturday night destiny tilted back in Giroud’s favor.

So cruel for Benzema but a reward, also, for Giroud’s inner strength and belief.


AP World Cup coverage: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach speaks after the NFL AFC Championship playoff footba...
Associated Press

Super Bowl-bound Chiefs are built around Patrick Mahomes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are built around their half-billion dollar All-Pro quarterback, and for the past five years, Super Bowl-bound Patrick Mahomes has made everyone else around him all the more valuable. He’s taken marginal wide receivers and turned them into stars. Mediocre offensive linemen became stalwarts. Finishing the second […]
2 days ago
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks before the NHL All-Star hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, i...
Associated Press

Gary Bettman defends NHL handling of Pride night situations

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at his state of the game news conference Saturday at All-Star Weekend defended the way the league and two teams handled situations that arose regarding Pride night celebrations. Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov did not take part in warmups Jan. 18 because he refused to wear a […]
2 days ago
Pacific Division's Elias Pettersson, of the Vancouver Canucks (40) tries to get a shot off on Centr...
Associated Press

Central makes final at NHL All-Star Game, tops Pacific 6-4

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Arizona’s Clayton Keller had two goals and an assist, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon scored twice and the Central Division moved into the title matchup with a 6-4 win over the Pacific Division to start the All-Star Game on Saturday. St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and three assists for the Central. […]
2 days ago
FILE - Texas sports editor, Denne Freeman listens to University of Texas Safety Stanley Richard dur...
Associated Press

Former AP sports writer Denne H. Freeman dies at 86

DALLAS (AP) — Retired longtime Associated Press sports writer Denne H. Freeman, whose 32 years with the AP included covering all five Super Bowl championships won by the Dallas Cowboys and many golf majors, has died after a series of health issues. He was 86. Freeman’s family said he died Friday night at a Plano […]
2 days ago
FILE - Allegiant Stadium is shown during the second half of the Pro Bowl NFL football game between ...
Associated Press

NFL infuses Pro Bowl with points system, flag football

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The NFL finally stopped pretending its all-star game was an actual game, and is breathing life into the exhibition with Sunday’s Pro Bowl Games. There will be no tackle football played for the first time — not that there was much tackling in recent years, more like two-hand touch. Flag football […]
2 days ago
Al Ahly players celebrate after Al Ahly's Mohamed Afsha scored his side's opening goal during the F...
Associated Press

Al Ahly’s late goal ends Seattle debut 1-0 in Club World Cup

TANGIER, Morocco (AP) — Mohamed Afsha scored on a deflected shot in the 88th minute and sent Al Ahly into the Club World Cup semifinals by beating the Seattle Sounders 1-0 on Saturday. Afsha scored after coming on as a substitute in the 63rd. He lifted Al Ahly into the semifinals for the third straight […]
2 days ago
Giroud gets chance to spearhead France’s attack at World Cup