Olivier Giroud would have no qualms about finishing Russia 2018 without a goal to his name if France finish by lifting the World Cup.
Didier Deschamps’ side take on Belgium in Tuesday’s St Petersburg semi-final – a game that will be graced by a raft of prime attacking and creative talents on both sides.
Chelsea striker Giroud began the tournament as a substitute but was introduced for Les Bleus’ 1-0 win over Peru in their second match.
His robust presence at centre-forward has helped to unleash the lavish gifts of Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe – most notably when the latter tore Argentina apart with a virtuoso display.
Goals have proved elusive for a player whose place in the France line-up has long been a source of national debate in his homeland but two more wins are all that count for 31-year-old.
“If I didn’t score all tournament but we won the World Cup, of course I would take that in a heartbeat,” Giroud told a news conference.
“I am motivated to speak with the youngest in the squad. I try and force myself to speak up. I really want my thirst for victory to come across to them.”
Belgium’s forwards are receiving similarly sage words from France great Thierry Henry, who is a key member of Roberto Martinez’s backroom team.
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) July 7, 2018
“I would be delighted if I can prove to Thierry Henry that he chose the wrong camp,” Giroud added.
“I would’ve preferred him to be with us, for him to give me and the other French attackers advice, but I am not jealous.”
Nacer Chadli was Belgium’s unlikely match-winner from the bench in their 3-2 last-16 win over Japan, earning a start at left wing-back for the quarter-final beating of Brazil that kept confidence coursing through the Red Devils squad.
“If you beat Brazil you should not be frightened by anyone,” Chadli told reporters. “If you are scared, you will not play at 100 per cent.
“The fight against Japan was already a turning point, after a 2-0 deficit and still winning within 90 minutes. We got a boost there.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
France: Paul Pogba
Finding a role where Pogba can perform to his full potential is arguably a code Deschamps still has to crack but the Manchester United midfielder performed with authority in the 2-0 quarter-final win over Uruguay, winning 14 duels – ironically the type of numbers Jose Mourinho would be delighted to see him return more often on a regular basis.
14 – Paul Pogba won 14 duels against Uruguay, highest tally for a French
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