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Could Olivier Giroud be France’s key man?

Striker provides much-needed balance

For much of Olivier Giroud’s time at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger seemed intent on replacing him.

Giroud is second-to-none with his back to goal, he’s superb at playing quick one-twos and he’s a good finisher in the air or on the ground. But his lack of pace is often seen as a major drawback.

It’s why Wenger chased the likes of Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema. It’s also why he tried using Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott up front, before bringing in Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during his last year in charge.

And it’s why Didier Deschamps selected a front trio of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele for France’s opening World Cup game against Australia.

All three of them are quick and exciting forwards. But having your attacking players fluidly interchange always seems to work better in theory than it does in practice.

Giroud’s introduction helped swing the game in France’s favour. He also played a key role in their win over Peru.

Classic big man

France arguably have the most talented squad in Russia, but they’ve looked much less than the sum of their parts so far.

Giroud isn’t their most gifted player, not by a long shot, but he helps to knit the whole side together.

Griezmann is much happier playing off another striker, as he does with Diego Costa at club level. Giroud’s presence occupies defenders, opening space for Griezmann to exploit.

His aerial prowess also gives Les Bleus the option of going long, while his ability to hold up the ball and then link up with midfielders can help Paul Pogba to have a greater influence over games.

Proven pedigree

Giroud has also proven he can be counted upon for France. He’s got 31 goals for his country – only Thierry Henry (51), Michel Platini (41) and David Trezeguet (34) have ever scored more.

There’s an argument that Griezmann is the only other attacking player at Deschamps’ disposal that has proven himself on the international stage.

People are still talking about Pogba’s potential more than what he actually delivers, while this is the first tournament for Dembele, Mbappe, Thomas Lemar and Nabil Fekir.

Giroud has a history of rising to challenges too. The 31-year-old signed for Chelsea as a back-up to Alvaro Morata in January, only to usurp the £60m signing by the end of the campaign.

If France are going to go all the way this summer, you’d back Giroud to play a major role.

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