Olivier Giroud’s journey to becoming France’s all-time top scorer

DOHA, Qatar — On Tuesday night, a few minutes after France’s win against Poland, the French players gathered in the locker room to celebrate the victory, but also to give the perfect welcome to Olivier Giroud. Around an hour earlier, the number 9 scored that opener and became the all-time top goalscorer in French football history with 52 goals in 117 internationals, which is an incredible achievement.

The AC Milan striker reached an incredible milestone and wrote a new page in football history as well as a new chapter in his incredible career. Les Bleus had to wait a while to congratulate him. Giroud was tested for drugs after the match, so his teammates all had to wait for him to return to the hotel to get the party started.

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It was a mixture of pure happiness and pride, but also relief and excitement. Overtaking Thierry Henry who scored 51 in 126 caps, in the World Cup, at the age of 36, in front of his family, in a clutch game, nothing can top this. He wants to keep the shirt and frame it for his older days. He will of course be honored by the French Football Federation, but for now he is just enjoying the moment and what he has done.

“It’s amazing, it’s a childhood dream to break Thierry Henry’s record. I’m incredibly proud. I hope I’ll still score a few more to reach as far as possible. Now I’m putting this behind me and my obsession is to go as far as possible with the team. As soon as I scored I thought of my family, my children, my friends. It is something extraordinary to do this at a World Cup,” he said after the match on French television.

He had Monday off like the rest of the squad and spent time with his relatives. He also began responding to hundreds of messages of congratulations he receives from friends, teammates, former teammates. Everyone loves Giroud and this record is testament to an incredible career.

It was a sense of fate when all the French players posed for a photo earlier last week wearing their first ever club shirt, from when they were little. Giroud was there with his Forges OFC where it all started, in Savoie where he was born and raised. At that time, football was fun for him. It was later that it became more complicated.

Despite signing for Grenoble, the big regional club that used to be in Ligue 1 but is now in the second tier, things didn’t go well. He had to go to the lower leagues, first gaining recognition as a 26-year-old in Ligue 1 when he led Montpellier to the title in 2012. He moved to England that summer and despite many goals and trophies for Arsenal and Chelsea, he was probably didn’t get the credit and love he deserved there.

Nevertheless, on Sunday, he entered the pantheon of French players, right up there with the likes of Reymond Kopa, Zinedine Zidane, Michel Platini, Thierry Henry. Yes, Giroud is not technically gifted like the greats of these days, but he got there with hard work and belief, by never giving up and by always fighting.

“His story is incredible and should be an inspiration to everyone. I knew him when he was nothing and he was the same as he is now: humble, hardworking, with a great mentality. Nothing was ever given to him. He had to work his way to the top and fight to get everything he got today and everything he achieved,” explains his good friend and former teammate at Tours, Arsenal and France, Laurent Koscielny.

It all started 10 years ago in February 2012, when Olivier Giroud scored his first international goal on his first start and third cap against Germany in a friendly. At the time, he would never have thought he would add 51 more to the tally. “I will try my best to score as many as I can,” he told ESPN after the game. Here we are in December 2022 and he is up to 52 and counting.

Now he turns his attention to England on Saturday. He loved his nine years in London. His children were born in the capital and he enjoyed playing in the Premier League. This is really where his career took off. Does he want to prove a point? Does he feel bitter and remorseful? Having won the World Cup, Champions League, Europa League, the league in two different countries (France and Italy) and four FA Cups, scored 258 goals in 640 professional games and now holds this record, he feels he has nothing to prove to anyone.

All he wants now is to enjoy the final months and years of his glittering career.

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