in 2022 World Cup – Farewell to supporting roles: How Olivier Giroud makes Karim Benzema forget the world in France


“Injury like a stab,” wrote L’Équipe, Le Parisien chose the terms “drama” and “catastrophe”. Karim Benzema’s thigh injury so close to the World Cup It caused much sadness and uncertainty in France. A world champion without a world footballer? An unfortunate scenario.

After notable players such as Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté and Christopher Nkunku had already withdrawn from the tournament due to injury, Benzema’s “disaster”, as the normally posh newspaper Le Figaro put it, struck again just before Kick-off in Qatar straight to the blue office. The mission to defend the title now appeared to be mission impossible.

However, the feat of winning the prestigious trophy for the second time in a row is not so impossible. The French national team is doing surprisingly well at the Winter World Cup. Also because Benzema’s Olivier Giroud is doing a great job these days.

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While the whole world marveled at Kylian Mbappé and his dynamism, technique and goal threat, the midfielder blossomed into an equally important building block in the shadow of exceptional talent. Already in the first game against Australia (4:1) Giroud has added to the tension, scoring a vital opener in the last-16 win over Poland (3-1) and most recently in a 2-1 win against England with a header from Antonie Griezmann’s spot-kick.

Giroud replaces Henry as record goalscorer

“I knew I was going to get another chance and I did,” Giroud, who was later named man of the match, told a press conference. His shot against England (2:1) was the 53rd for the Équipe tricolore in 118 games, before finally knocking off the previous record holder Thierry Henry (51 goals in 123 games) from the podium with his goal against Poland.

Olivier Giroud is France’s record goalscorer

Photo credit: Getty Images

So no player has scored more for Les Bleus than Giroud. And yet the 36-year-old is still underrated. “The French don’t love him, but now everyone adores him, even those who criticized him – and I can see some of them in the hall,” coach Didier Deschamps told French reporters after the clash with the highly-touted Three Lions.

Absurd Facebook hate

Giroud and the French, a relationship that has rarely been intact. Meanwhile, the hatred for the goalscorer took absurd forms. In the run-up to the European Championship in his country in 2016, the Facebook event “Pray for Giroud to get injured before the European Championship” attracted 150,000 users.

However, not only has Giroud been repeatedly criticized in his home country, the forward has never been fully recognized in England, where he played for Arsenal FC from 2012 to 2018 and then another three-and-a-half years at city rivals FC Chelsea. Despite a total of 90 goals in 255 league games. The accusations were too harmless, too slow.

Benzema compares Giroud to a ‘kart’

Even teammate Benzema once threw at Giroud. The real star wrote on social networks that comparing him to Giroud is like comparing Formula 1 to a go-kart.

Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud

Photo credit: Getty Images

In Qatar, it is quite attractive for France to drive karts. “I feel very good and at a good level,” explained the veteran. He added: “I was once told that we are all 20 years old, everything else is experience. I really play like I am 20 years old. With the joy of a child. I am hungry for goals and my body seems to be able to take it.”

Milan’s change is paying off

According to AC Milan president Paolo Scaroni, the fact that things are going so well at the moment also has something to do with Giroud’s move to the Rossoneri last July. “Then we revive him and he got a new motivation from us, which he has now taken with him and transferred to the French national team,” Scaroni told Sky Sport Italia. He added: “He’s doing so well – and I think a lot of the semi-final was down to him.”

Giroud fought his way through. Both with his new employer, with whom he quickly celebrated the Italian championship (11 goals in 29 league matches), and with the national team, with which he could now achieve a huge hit again after 2018. Before the semi-final clash with Morocco…

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