Olivier Giroud praised for silencing critics to break goalscoring record

Sport

Didier Deschamps paid tribute to Olivier Giroud after the forward broke France’s men’s goalscoring record in their 3-1 win against Poland. Giroud’s 52nd strike for Les Bleus eclipsed a milestone set by Thierry Henry and Deschamps said it was just reward for overcoming criticism at various points in his career, including when he drew a blank during their triumph at Russia 2018.

Giroud has scored three times at this tournament and France, the holders, look in menacing shape before the last eight. “Four years ago he didn’t score but he was still an important player,” Deschamps said. “He has had difficult periods in his career. He has often been criticised but people are now seeing his quality. He stayed strong mentally and has broken a very difficult record held by Henry.”

Sitting next to him was Kylian Mbappé, who brought his international tally to 33 with two goals in the last-16 victory and, at 23, is 12 years Giroud’s junior. “Another boy here might break it one day,” Deschamps joked. “To score so many goals at international level is a great achievement. [Giroud] was already there when I arrived.”

Mbappé leads the golden boot charts at Qatar 2022 with five goals but scotched any suggestion that pursuing the prize might distract him. “The only objective for me is to win the World Cup,” he said. “That’s my only dream. I didn’t come to win the golden boot. If I do win it I’ll be happy but that’s not what I am here for.”

Although Mbappé’s performance, particularly after half-time, appeared to be masterful it earned mixed reviews from his manager. “He speaks on the pitch,” Deschamps said. “He didn’t have his best match tonight. He knows that himself but he can change a match in just a moment. He always plays with joy and we all want to share those smiles. France needed a great Kylian Mbappé tonight and they got one.”

Deschamps praised the understanding Mbappé and Giroud have developed since 2018, when the former operated in a more orthodox right-sided role. “They are now closer together and technically, over the years, have developed an understanding,” he said. “But I don’t mind if it doesn’t work and we get the same result as in 2018.”

The Milan player Giroud said his record was a “childhood dream” and praised the “solidarity and unity” he believes has been critical to France’s progress. They will play England or Senegal in the last eight after winning three of their four matches, scoring nine goals.