Olivier Giroud did not expect the World Cup he is having, but he woke up one morning in the Al Messila hotel where the French team lives, and Benzema was no longer there.
So when France opened against Australia, Giroud (Chambéry; 36 years old) started and after 32 minutes he had already scored the first of his four goals.
The striker, who is playing his second semifinal against Morocco today, is always ready for the unexpected.
In Milanello, the sports city of Milan, where he arrived a year and a half ago from Chelsea, they say that he is one of the last to leave the training camps.
He often stays with the youngsters playing to hit the crossbar, or rehearsing free kicks.
And that in his 14 seasons in Ligue 1, the Premier and Serie A, he has shot only 14 times from set pieces from outside the area, without a goal, according to Opta.
He threw another with France, also without luck.
But on December 13, 2018, in a Europa League match with Chelsea in Budapest, he scored against Fehervar.
He's never been the first pitcher, but he still sticks around for practice almost every day.
That goal in Hungary came months after a dream summer in which he was proclaimed world champion with France in Russia.
Although it was a very rare World Cup for a pure nine.
Not a goal in 545 minutes.
Not only that: he did not manage to shoot once between the three sticks.
Although it was strange, the goal was not Giroud's most important mission in that World Cup.
In the premiere against Australia he was not a starter.
But in 1970, with a suffered 1-1 loss, Deschamps brought him in for Griezmann.
France ended up winning and Giroud started every other game, right up to the final.
Days went by and he didn't score, but the coach didn't seem worried.
On the contrary: he was delighted: "The footballers who play around him benefit from his presence, because he attracts a lot of attention from the defenders."
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His presence throughout the tournament was essential for Mbappé and Griezmann to shine.
The gravitational force that his 192 centimeters exerted on the defenses opened spaces for the two figures.
That deaf and not selfish work continues to be something that his Milan teammates highly value today.
Like those of the selection of then.
He himself explained it in Russia: “When you are a striker like me, you always play for your teammates.
Obviously I prefer to have chances and score, but if I can create space for others, I always try to choose the best option for the team."
He had thought a lot about the matter.
So many that he even relied on historical examples to appease the purists: “When France won the World Cup in 1998, I think Dugarry scored one goal and Guivarc'h none.
If we are champions without me scoring, I don't care.
If I'm on the pitch, it means the boss thinks I can help the team."
There is another aspect that his teammates see daily in Milanello: “They say that he is the best striker they have ever known in front of goal.
He is not the best striker, but he is in front of the goal.
He finishes it all off, and everything he touches goes to goal."
Russia must have been especially frustrating.
She shot 13 times and none of them ended up where they say they always go.
She has to do with the areas through which she moved to clean up the front for Mbappé and Griezmann.
Looking back on his attempts at the time is very eloquent about the places his movements took him.
He used to find himself away from those he normally identifies as auspicious.
He took all 13 of his shots in Russia from an average distance of 16 meters from the goal, according to
In Qatar he also has 13 shots, but from 10 meters.
Four were goals.
In addition, in this World Cup he is especially inspired to find dangerous places to shoot from, and his teammates find him in better positions.
The average quality of his chances in Qatar is very high, 0.24 expected goals (xG) per shot, while in Russia he tried it in poorer situations, with an average 0.08 xG per shot.
In his last seven club seasons he averaged 0.15 xG per shot.
Without Benzema, with whom he would hardly have played, Giroud has found his place in a France where he fits in better than ever, and with which he now faces an old acquaintance from heroic times.
In the 2006-07 season he shared a dressing room at Grenoble in the French second division with Walid Regragui, today the Moroccan coach.
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