DOHA, Qatar -- On Tuesday night, a few minutes after France's victory against Poland, the French players all gathered in their dressing room to celebrate the victory but also to give the perfect welcome to Olivier Giroud. Around an hour earlier, the number 9 scored the opener to become the all time top goal scored in French men football history with 52 goals in 117 caps, which is an unbelievable achievement.
The AC Milan striker reached an incredible milestone and wrote a new page of football history as well as a new chapter of his incredible career. Les Bleus had to wait a while though to congratulate him. Giroud was selected for the doping test after the game, so his teammates all had to wait for his return to the hotel to get the party started.
There was a mix of pure happiness and pride but also relief and excitement. To overtake Thierry Henry who scored 51 in 126 caps, at the World Cup, at 36 years of age, in front of his family, in a clutch game, nothing can top this. He will keep the shirt and frame it for his older days. He will be honoured by the French Football Federation of course but for now, he is just enjoying the moment and what he has done.
"It is incredible, it is a child's dream to beat Thierry Henry's record. I am immensely proud. I hope I am still going to score a few more to go as far as possible. Now, I am putting this behind me and my obsession is to go as far as possible with the team. As soon as I scored I thought about my family, my children, my friends. It is something extraordinary to do this at a World Cup," he said after the game on French TV.
On Monday, he had a day off like the rest of the squad and spent time with his relatives. He also started responded to the hundreds of messages of congratulations he receives from friends, teammates, former teammates. Everybody loves Giroud and this record is a testament to an incredible career.
There was a sense of destiny when earlier last week, all the French players posed for a photo 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 grew up. At that time, football was fun for him. It is later that it became more complicated.
Despite signing for Grenoble, the big regional club which 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, to only get the recognition at 26 in Ligue 1 when he led Montpellier to the title in 2012. He moved to England that same summer and despite plenty of goals and trophies for Arsenal and Chelsea, he probably didn't get the credit and the 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 talented technically as these all time greats but he made his way up there with hard work and belief, by never giving up and by always fighting.
"His story is incredible and should be an inspiration for everyone. I knew him when he was nothing and he was the same as he is now: humble, hard working, 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 Tours, Arsenal and France teammate 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 that time, he would have never thought he would add 51 more to his tally. "I will try my best to score as many as I can," he said to 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. It is really where his career took off. Will he have a point to prove? Does he feel bitter and remorseful? After winning the World Cup, the Champions League, the Europa League, the league in two different countries (France and Italy) and four FA Cups, scoring 258 goals in 640 professional games and now holding this record, he feels he has nothing to prove to anyone.
All he wants now is to enjoy the last months and years of his glittering career.