ALVISE CAGNAZZO: Giroud ready to play leading role at the World Cup

ALVISE CAGNAZZO: Olivier Giroud is getting better with age at AC Milan… despite Didier Deschamps having Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe at his disposal, he is ready to play a leading role in France’s World Cup defence

  • French striker Olivier Giroud has been in excellent form for AC Milan this season
  • His brace vs Salzburg sealed Milan’s place in the last 16 of Champions League
  • Giroud is also in great shape, despite turning 36 earlier this season
  • Didier Deschamps has Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe to call upon in Qatar
  • However, Giroud is ready to play a leading role at the World Cup this month
  • Click here for all the latest World Cup 2022 news and updates

Olivier Giroud is a player reborn in Italy. His brace against Red Bull Salzburg in Wednesday’s final Champions League group game sealed AC Milan’s place in the last 16, as he demonstrated his leadership and proved why Paolo Maldini was right to bring him over to Serie A to work under manager Stefano Pioli.

Milan spent less than £865,000 (€1million) to sign him from Chelsea, and Giroud is experiencing an extraordinary final phase of his career that allows him to be Pioli’s first-choice striker despite turning 36 in September.

He has scored eight goals in 17 games across all competitions this season, an amazing return for a player who has become a protagonist in Milan’s project by finding the net at important moments.  

Olivier Giroud scored twice on Wednesday to help AC Milan progress in Europe

Giroud has scored one goal more than Juventus forward Dusan Vlahovic, despite being 14 years older than his counterpart – this statistic perfectly captures the great season that the French giant is having in Milan.

The French striker was directly involved in three goals against Salzburg (two goals and an assist), becoming the oldest player to achieve this feat in the Champions League since Opta started taking statistics for Europe’s elite club competition in 2003-04. 

He is showing no signs of slowing down, and has shown consistently that he can still operate at the highest level. 

According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Giroud has done more than enough to convince Milan’s hierarchy to extend his contract beyond next summer, and discussions will largely centre around how long his new deal will be.

Giroud has consistently delivered for AC Milan in recent months, and is set for a new contract

Fellow forwards Ante Rebic, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and summer signing Divock Origi have not delivered on a consistent basis like Giroud, whose goals have taken Milan into the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time in a decade. 

When Milan need him, Giroud is always present and determined to step up. In recent months, he has always been decisive, scoring both goals in his side’s derby win against Inter that gave Pioli’s men the momentum to go on and win the Scudetto last season.

Now he has produced the goods in Europe as the Rossoneri look to become a force on the continent once more. 

Giroud wants leading role in World Cup defence

Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe are two exceptional players, but the strength of France is having Giroud at their disposal as the secret weapon to use during matches. 

Giroud has the ability to play with both attackers and his great quality makes him the perfect striker for the mechanics of Didier Deschamps’ team. 

Having Ballon d’Or winner Benzema and the rising star of European football Mbappe in front of him make it difficult for Giroud to get back into the team, but he has been a key player for France in the past, and is closing in on becoming his country’s all-time top goalscorer. 

Giroud is below Kylian Mbappe (left) and Karim Benzema (No 19) in France’s pecking order

His leadership qualities are growing at Milan, and his excellent run of form has come at the perfect moment as France look to retain the World Cup in Qatar.

Giroud started six of France’s seven matches at the 2018 World Cup as Deschamps’ men triumphed in Russia.

Although he failed to get on the scoresheet, Giroud still played an effective role in the team, bringing Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann into play regularly. 

He has also shown in more recent years that he is also capable of making an impact from the bench when not selected to play from the beginning.

Giroud is closing in on becoming France’s all-time top scorer, and is ready to shine in Qatar

Should Benzema and Mbappe fail to click as a partnership, having Giroud as a replacement is a very useful ace for Deschamps to have up his sleeve.

His mental strength and professionalism could be a major asset for a France side battling with injuries, following confirmation that Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante will both miss this year’s tournament. 

Giroud is still in tremendous condition which has allowed him to play a high number of minutes this season, but Pioli has also rotated him well, meaning he should arrive in Qatar relatively fresh and ready to play a leading role for his country.

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