Sunday 19 August 2018

Giroud has last laugh after conquering world despite firing blanks

Olivier Giroud of France celebrates following France winning the trophy Photo: Getty
Olivier Giroud of France celebrates following France winning the trophy Photo: Getty

Sam Wallace

Raphael Varane came through with the World Cup itself, cradled in the crook of his right arm as if he was carrying his newborn. His team-mates left the Luzhniki Stadium after midnight playing music and greeting reporters as they made their way out to the bus, revelling in their new status as World Cup winners, that rarest and greatest honour.

Olivier Giroud was one of the last out, a little frazzled for the experience but the winners' medal around his neck and the Giroud hair once more immaculate after its battering from the late-night thunderstorm. Any World Cup that ends with a winners' medal has to be considered a great one and yet there has to be a caveat in the case of the Chelsea striker, and that was playing on his mind.

Giroud has not scored for France in any of their seven games, all of which he has featured in - his last goal coming against Ireland during their friendly in May. Since coming off the bench in the first group game against Australia for 20 minutes he has started every game for France.

Over that period, he has had just one attempt on target, although Didier Deschamps's faith in him has been unwavering. Just as in 1998 Aime Jacquet stuck with Stephane Guivarc'h, who also failed to score a goal in the tournament. It should also be said that Guivarc'h was nothing like as good as Giroud.

He wanted to talk about all of that, but first of all there was something on Giroud's mind that he wanted to say to a group of tired English football reporters. He was asked how it felt to be a World Cup winner. "Not bad, it's a great feeling. I mean..." There was a pause as he tried to remember what was on his mind. Then: a moment of clarity. "It's coming home!" he said with a smile. "I had to say that!"

"Honestly it's a dream come true, a childhood dream. I am very proud for all the people who supported us, myself. It has been sometimes difficult but it is a privilege for me to be part of this team. We have been very solid, very strong all the way, until the end. And I think it's well deserved."

What did he mean about the difficulty?

"All of my career I have been - how can I say this? - I have been through certain difficulties and I have always tried to make it motivation to get better and better.

"It is what happens in life when you are really motivated, determined, committed - it is never easy. Football is very hard and people see only the nice part of the job. But we worked very hard for this achievement and I am very proud to say I am a World Cup champion."

His transfer to Chelsea in January felt, in retrospect, like the sign that Arsene Wenger was on his way. It was clear the ex-Arsenal boss didn't wanted to sell Giroud but that the decision was made for him, and Chelsea knew a bargain when they saw one. Does Giroud feel more appreciated in France than in England?

"No, no, no, because I have been criticised a little bit in France as well.

"Because I didn't score in the World Cup. I have received a lot of messages from people who know football well, lots of French supporters. They saw the work I do for the team and a lot of people wanted me to score in the final.

"I said, 'Yes I hope so but even if I don't score and we are world champions it will be the best thing that has happened in my life'."

"We really wanted this because it was 20 years ago [since France's first World Cup]," Giroud added. "We really wanted to do it ourselves after the amazing generation they had with Zinedine Zidane. We are very proud to be part of it."

He was off to join in the celebrations - no goals, but a great medal. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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