UEFA Euro 2016 had many favourites before the tournament even began. And on that list along with some other heavyweights of European football were the host nation France. Many believed that this was the year France would make the cut they were missing in big tournaments since the days of Zidane, Trezeguet etc. And they had reasons to support this belief as Les Blues came into the tournament with players such as Payet, Griezmann, and Pogba, who were in red hot form for their club side. The only cause for concern, apart from a last minute shuffle at the heart of the defence, was the man playing up front. Karim Benzema did a more than decent job in the last World Cup and was in good form for Real Madrid as well. But his actions off the field led to him being axed from France’s final squad. And that meant Didier Deschamps would probably start with Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud. Giroud did not enjoy a happy season at the Emirates and had always had fingers pointed at him for the lack of goals.

Olivier Giroud for Arsenal
Giroud had a disappointing season with Arsenal ahead of the tournament.

But the biggest European stage, set in front of his home crowd was the best possible chance for him to win his place back in the team. But all did not go as planned. The French striker was not backed by a major section of fans and they did not hide their opinion either. Giroud was booed by his own fans in a friendly against Cameroon, despite finding the back of the net. And that was not the welcome he wanted from his own supporters.

Despite these factors, Didier Deschamps repeatedly said that he will start with the Arsenal forward and that he can be a very vital component in the quest for European glory. Deschamps had stats to back this too. Giroud netted 7 times in 7 matches in the lead up to the tournament and Deschamps believed that his ability to be the target man could further bolster the attacking pedigree of one of the strongest midfield line-up in the tournament.

Olivier Giroud
Deschamps backed Giroud to be his target man.

Neither did Giroud hide behind the wall. He came out firing for Les Blues and has now placed himself as one of the most crucial figures in the game, ahead of the semi-finals clash against the World Cup holders Germany. Olivier Giroud, like his other team-mates, has caught the eye of one and all with his performances and has scored 3 goals in 4 games so far in the tournament. His man of the match performance against Iceland in the quarter-finals was the latest statement of Giroud’s strength on the field. His performance has underlined the fact Deschamps mentioned prior to the tournament’s kick-off.

And it has not been just the goals that made him a strong contender for the game changer title. Deschamps and France have used the physical abilities of the player to provide the perfect support for his dynamic midfield line-up. Giroud’s winning duels and link-up play with the likes of Griezmann and Payet have played a vital part in making goals.

The striker has won an average of 5 aerial duels per game and this further underlines why France backed his towering presence in the front. And when you combine this with the 2 assists in the tournament, the French supporters should regret the booing they gave the striker. Another interesting stat to look at is the number of shots Giroud has taken. Giroud has taken a total of 12 shots and interestingly, all these 12 shots have been from in and around the penalty area. This might be a surprising factor for many Arsenal fans as they have seen him try a shot from long range, and he has even managed to score some blinders like that. But this fact further highlights that he has stuck to the tactics of the team and has always been available in the final third when needed. The striker has also made a total of 94 passes out of which 56 have been accurate short balls to his team-mates. His link-up play has also meant that France have found goals from Payet, Griezmann, Pogba, and others. Griezmann’s second goal against Ireland was a classic example of what Giroud does best.

Olivier Giroud with the assist
Olivier Giroud providing the assist for Griezmann’s goal vs Ireland.

There will be no shortage of support for the French side and Giroud as they look strong enough to challenge the German side who themselves have been impressive. Giroud has also mentioned the fact that he is not thinking about his personal statistics and is focused on the bigger picture to take France all the way through. As the tournament is nearing its finale, even the Arsenal fans will be excited to see the striker in such good form. Having put the boo-boys behind him, Giroud has indeed replied perfectly with his on-field performances and has earned the applause he is receiving now.

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