After notable players such as Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté and Christopher Nkunku had already withdrawn from the tournament due to injury, Benzema’s “disaster”, as the normally posh newspaper Le Figaro put it, struck again just before Kick-off in Qatar straight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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Giroud replaces Henry as record goalscorer
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.”