Olivier Giroud put in a good individual performance in France’s 1-1 draw with Paraguay in their second FIFA World Cup warm-up match at OGC Nice’s Allianz Riviera on Sunday. However, while the Arsenal man finished the 4-0 win over Norway with a double, he did not find the back of the net in Nice.
It was a hard-working display—full of effort and self-sacrifice for the good of the team—but when the chances fell Giroud’s way, he was often wasteful.
The confidence-boosting double that he bagged against Norway last Tuesday—including one sublime volleyed finish—demonstrated how important the 27-year-old can be for Didier Deschamps’ side when given the chance. However, his contrasting performance on the Cote d’Azur also illustrated why Les Bleus are in need of greater variety up top.
Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema is expected to return for France's third and final warm-up clash with Jamaica in Lille this coming Sunday, and the game will give the French No. 10 the chance to re-establish himself in the starting XI after Giroud was given two chances to impress by Deschamps.
The Arsenal marksman has shown enough over that pair of games to merit a place in the side for the opening World Cup Group E clash with Honduras on June 15. However, the France coach is likely to keep faith in Benzema.
The only way that Deschamps might include Giroud is if he moves away from the 4-3-3 system that has started to produce results, but that is unlikely considering his past reticence to pair Benzema and the former Montpellier HSC man together.
Giroud’s performance against Paraguay suggests that this could be a potential game-changing strategy during the tournament, with the No. 9 capable of providing Benzema with the ammunition needed to score goals.
Firstly, on a number of occasions Giroud passed up the sort of opportunities that you expect strikers to be taking on and trying to score from. An example of this was early in the first half, when Bacary Sagna was released on the right and played a low cross into his feet.
Instead of controlling the ball and getting a shot in on goal, the Arsenal man elected to attempt a backheeled pass that was loosely in the direction of Juventus’ Paul Pogba. The Paraguayan defence easily intercepted and a good chance had passed for the French.
Secondly, Giroud often puts himself in a position to be the provider for a strike partner instead of actually being the one in position to take on the bulk of the opportunities.
This is not something new—he regularly excelled at it when playing for Montpellier in Ligue 1. But Giroud needs to be the player on the end of the chances created when played as the focal point of this team, not the one providing them.
Loic Remy’s chance late in the first half demonstrated Giroud’s creative capabilities, but by turning provider, the towering striker is often asking his wide men to become the prolific members of this attacking trio when it should be the other way around.
Finally, Giroud continues to pose an aerial threat for France from set pieces and crosses. As he did against Norway, the front man tested the opponent’s goalkeeper on a number of occasions and proved a nuisance for the defence attempting to shackle him.
In fact, it was a header from Giroud that led to Antoine Griezmann’s spectacular opening goal after 81 minutes.
The Arsenal star met a Clement Grenier corner, powering a header down that was tipped away before the ball eventually fell to Griezmann. The Real Sociedad talent curled a brilliant effort inside the far post to give the hosts the lead.
Giroud’s role in that goal should not be overlooked, but equally not overstated either. There was still plenty to do in order for the ball to find its way to Griezmann.
However, the fact is that—despite not finding the net—Giroud proved that he can contribute in more ways than just scoring goals for Deschamps’ side. However, he also proved that—like Benzema— he is not the most reliable of finishers.
If Giroud wants to make himself indispensable for Les Bleus this World Cup, then he has to start taking some of the chances that fall his way while continuing to create plenty for others around him.
Should he succeed in doing that, we could see him finally paired alongside Benzema in attack.