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Scored twice against Australia on Tuesday in Qatar, Olivier Giroud equaled Thierry Henry’s record of 51 goals scored for the France team. The 36-year-old has had an amazing journey, full of pitfalls and challenges.

Revealed late, the “phoenix” Olivier Giroud wove the thread of an atypical career by elbowing, returning the image of a needy scorer despite the hollows, until becoming, Tuesday, November 22, the equal of Thierry Henry at the top of the scorers of the France team, his home.

At 36, the stainless center-forward won the ultimate record in Qatar that he had been watching for several years: the 51 goals of his illustrious predecessor, like him on the side of Arsenal. And he did not drag since he did it with a double entry, against Australia for the first match (32nd and 71st) of the Blues.

What fate! In September, his participation in the Qatari World Cup was far from certain, Didier Deschamps having left him aside each time Karim Benzema had been available for a year. But Giroud knew how to make himself indispensable and win his place, once again. Benzema’s package then opened up a boulevard for him towards the starting “eleven” and 51 goals.

If this vertiginous mark will be difficult to keep – Antoine Griezmann (42 goals) is approaching, Kylian Mbappé (28 goals) is arriving at full speed – it comes to reward an astonishing journey, strewn with pitfalls and challenges.

From Grenoble Foot 38, his training club, to the Al Janoub stadium in Al Wakrah, the tall bearded man of one meter ninety-three wrote his story with resilience, faithful to his dreams and his beliefs.

“Difficulty keeps me going”

“I have always built myself in adversity, it’s a bit like the story of my career”, he described in 2020 in an interview with beIN Sports. “There are times when I would have liked it to be easier but you have to believe that the difficulty makes me move forward.”

This native of Chambéry hatched late: after Grenoble, Istres and Tours, he only discovered Ligue 1 at the age of 23 in Montpellier, when other Tricolores like Benzema, younger than him, were already getting used to gatherings at Clairefontaine, the training center of the Blues.

The gate of the castle of Yvelines opens in November 2011 for the athletic N.9, at 25 years old. “I like having, in this position, an atypical player in size, with a pivotal role,” explains then coach Laurent Blanc.

A few months later, another dream came true, the Premier League. In five and a half years at Arsenal, the French gunner unfolds his palette: subtle deviations, helmet shots and big firecrackers in the skylight, everything goes. At the same time, he became Didier Deschamps’ basic man, first alongside Benzema, then without him once the Madrid player was banned.

The public sometimes makes him pay for the sidelining of his competitor, in a totally “unfair” way according to Deschamps. Between prolific and goalless periods, like at the 2018 World Cup which he won as a starter, Giroud finds the answer to everything.

“My friends call me the Grenoble phoenix. It’s a compliment, it means that no matter the circumstances, I don’t give up,” he will say in 2021, after a double scored to replace … Benzema , just recalled by “DD”.

Deschamps ironically

The evangelical Christian, author of a book entitled “Always believe in it”, also has easy forgiveness vis-à-vis the Madrilenian, who had compared himself to a “Formula 1” against the “karting” Giroud. “I’ll invite him on a kart circuit and we’ll fight each other at the kart, that’s it!”, he jokes.

He uses the same joking tone with Henry when the latter teases him by calling him “the old man”. “It delights me, ‘Titi’! (…) You’re still well ahead, my chicken”, he replies to the 1998 world champion, last March on Prime Video.

Over the years, the man with 115 caps sometimes loses playing time, at Arsenal and then Chelsea. But each time, the France team offers him a breath of fresh air, he is decisive there.

From resurrection to resurrection, Giroud then chose AC Milan. It becomes essential there, with a scudetto added in the trophy cabinet.

And when his status wavers with the Blues, in 2022, he devours every “crumb” with the appetite of an ogre, accepting a role as Benzema’s understudy while biding his time. At 36, it has finally arrived.

Even the French sports media, long mixed against him, become unanimous as the World Cup-2022 approaches. “He’s been adored lately!” Deschamps joked on Monday. “There are many who have criticized him, but recently he is an indisputable starter! So France is delighted, me too, and Olivier too.”

With AFP

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