Olivier Giroud prepares for France record that he was never meant to break

Olivier Giroud was never meant to play for France, let alone be a World Cup winner and on the verge of becoming Les Bleus’ all-time top goalscorer – still, his rise divides opinion

Olivier Giroud is on the verge of making history but the former Arsenal and Chelsea striker still divides opinions.

The 36-year-old who has also defied age will become France’s all time top scorer if he is on the mark against Poland on Sunday in the round of 16. A double against Australia took him to 51 goals for Les Bleus, level with Arsenal legend Thierry Henry who sends Giroud a well done text message after every international goal.

That’s more than former Liverpool and Scotland star Graeme Souness does who in his role as an ITV pundit is not as forthcoming in extolling Giroud’s virtues.

“When you talk about him in the same breath as Thierry Henry – sorry! I’m not his biggest fan,” he stated. “Seven games in the last World Cup in the team that won it, and he never had a shot on target.”

Giroud’s 2018 World Cup winning medal, again deputising for the absent Karim Benzema, was played out against criticism even amongst France followers. It prompted assistant manager Guy Stephan to ironically comment in the aftermath of the success: “So then we won the World Cup with Giroud up front?!”

Giroud’s former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is in no doubt about the value of the man he signed from Montpellier for around £10 million. “We must kneel before the career he has had. Absolutely nothing was given to him.” he maintained.

Giroud has always taken the criticism in his stride and his array of winners medals serves as proof that he must be doing something right.

Alongside the World Cup winners medal – the ultimate for any footballer – are three FA Cup winners medals with Arsenal, one with Chelsea plus Champions League and Europa League gongs with the Stamford Bridge club. Last season he was in AC Milan’s Serie A winning side.

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“It’s about concentrating on the positives and to not pay too much attention to the negatives,” Giroud says. “I have always had to face difficulties in life like most people do. It’s nice to be able to go about your work with a smile.”

One goal will see Giroud overtake Thierry Henry and be France’s all-time leading scorer outright

A deeply religious man Giroud says it was a family friend rather than his wife which prevented him leaving Arsenal for Everton when it was clear his days at the Emirates were numbered.

Everton manager at the time Sam Allardyce had revealed after the proposed move broke down: “I know he didn’t want to move north of Watford – well his wife didn’t want to anyway.

“It’s very important to the wives, believe me. Normally they are the boss.”

Giroud insists he was put off when a close family associate “got a sign from heaven” for him not to join the Merseyside club.

Could it be written in the stars that Giroud is heading for another World Cup winners medal with Didier Deschamps’ defending champions one of the favourites despite Ballon d’Or winner Benzema missing through injury. Had Benzema been fit, Giroud would have been left on the bench.

But he hasn’t been missed, with Giroud operating through the middle with Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele either side and Antoine Griezmann just behind in a quartet made to cause damage to opposition defences.

Surely though the headlines will be all about the unassuming Giroud if he becomes his country’s greatest goalscorer.

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