Olivier Giroud, 36, became France highest goal scorer overtaken Thierry Henry as he gave France a 1-0 lead just before half-time in their last-16 tie at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha on his 117th appearance for his country.
Olivier Giroud was an integral part of France’s 2018 World Cup-winning side, but in Qatar the striker has brought the goals missing from his game four years ago in Russia. On a night when the insatiable Kylian Mbappe scored two brilliant goals, Giroud wrote himself into the history books with his 52nd goal for Les Bleus — eclipsing Thierry’s Henry all-time record. In a last-16 tie billed as Mbappe against Robert Lewandowski, it was the evergreen 36-year-old Giroud who set France on their way to a 3-1 win with the opening goal just before half-time.
“Olivier has always been an important player. Even if four years ago with the title he didn’t score – he was always important,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.
“He has had difficult periods. Today he is rewarded because he has often been criticised. It is not just any old record… beyond it being Thierry Henry he has beaten.
“To score so many international goals – he was there before I even became coach so bravo to him and to his teammates who have helped him score so many goals.”
With favourites Brazil sweating over the fitness of Neymar heading into their last-16 tie and Argentina’s hopes heavily pinned on Lionel Messi, the France attack looks built to last the course of a breakneck tournament.
Deschamps caught flak for fielding a misshapen France side that resulted in a disjointed performance against Tunisia with qualification already assured.
But he felt it a gamble worthwhile to keep his key players fresh in sapping conditions in a competition where — as France learned the hard way at Euro 2020 — it can be all over with one brief dip.
France had to be patient against a Poland side which, as expected, defended deep and in numbers, but once Mbappe’s sublime ball through played in Giroud to steer past Wojciech Szczensy there was only really one outcome.
Giroud’s career has been defined by silencing his detractors and on Sunday he surpassed Henry’s mark, which had stood since 2009, to become his country’s top goalscorer on his 117th appearance.
“Olivier is a great leader, a great example for the young generation,” said France captain Hugo Lloris.
“In your career it doesn’t matter if you have ups and downs, the most important is to stay consistent, to stay strong in your mind in important moments and to never give up.