Olivier Giroud is hoping to break Thierry Henry’s record and become France’s all-time leading goalscorer at this year’s World Cup as he comes into the tournament in Qatar after a fine run of form with AC Milan.
Giroud turned 36 in September and had not been a regular in recent France squads but nine goals this season for the Serie A champions convinced France coach Didier Deschamps to take the veteran forward to Qatar.
It is Giroud’s third World Cup and while he had been expected to feature mainly from the bench, he will a key role to play with Karim Benzema out.
“For me it is kind of a blessing to have the opportunity to play for my country at a third World Cup. I want to enjoy every single moment,” Giroud told reporters at the home stadium of Qatari champions Al Sadd in Doha.
“Of course I have this target in my head to beat ‘Titi’ (Henry) but the main one is as a team, to go as far as we can in the competition.”
Giroud — who has also played at three European Championships — became France’s oldest international goalscorer in September when he netted for the 49th time for his country in a UEFA Nations League game against Austria.
The former Arsenal and Chelsea striker, who has 114 caps, is now just two goals away from equalling 1998 World Cup winner Henry’s record haul of 51 for Les Bleus.
Despite his relatively advanced years, it was put to Giroud that he might be in the form of his life and that some of his recent acrobatic finishes have drawn comparisons with Zlatan Ibrahimovic at his peak.
“I don’t know if I am in my best form and if you look at some of the goals I have scored in the past I have already got some that have been a bit like Zlatan,” he said.
“I do like scoring acrobatic goals.
“But it is true that I am in a good spell. I feel good physically, I am happy with my game and at my club.
“At the age of 36 it is a gift to be able to be so important and to feel so good, and I hope to keep this going.”
Giroud was the target man for France in 2018 and yet he didn’t score a single goal as they won the World Cup in Russia — his only World Cup goal to date came against Switzerland in Brazil in 2014.
He is though being tipped to start when France begin their trophy defence against Australia in Al Wakrah today as Benzema withdrew from the team due to injury.
The Real Madrid striker and Ballon d’Or winner has been struggling with a thigh injury and played just 26 minutes in Madrid’s last six games.
The France squad have already been hit by a wave of injuries, with absentees in Qatar including Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, their starting midfield pairing in 2018.
RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku pulled out after suffering a knee injury last week in France’s final training session before flying to Qatar.
That has created a feeling of anxiety in the French camp at the prospect of more injuries hampering their defence of the trophy.
“There is always some exposure to injuries but you must not think about that and just train normally,” Giroud said.