Having been booed, heavily criticised and had his selection for the competition questioned, Olivier Giroud showed actual mental strength on a night that he, more than anyone, needed to be.
As the opening fixture of this summer’s European Championships got underway, there was only one starting player for the tournament hosts that had excess pressure placed upon his shoulders.
Olivier Giroud. Seven goals in five international appearances, including two against Scotland last weekend, was evidently not enough to reassure French supporters’ as to whether he’d be able to lead the line in the absence of Karim Benzema.
On Friday night, he cut a frustrating figure in the first 45. Having squandered a few clear opportunities to, at the very least, test goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu, plenty of fans and critics alike were calling for him to be replaced at the interval.
Social media went crazy, and plenty enjoyed poking fun at the Arsenal man whilst Real Madrid’s Benzema sat watching glued to his TV screen at home. So once the second-half began, it was slightly surprising to some to see Giroud on the field of play.
Didier Deschamps could clearly see he was getting into promising positions, but wasn’t quite able to convert his chances. With Antoine Griezmann straying into Giroud’s area regularly, making it more difficult for the Arsenal man during the first half, things changed in the second.
After 57 minutes, when Giroud headed home a teasing Dimitri Payet cross, Deschamps’ choice to keep the frontman on was justified.
In typical Giroud fashion, he got the better of the Romania backline – not for the first time – and leaped high to flick the ball backwards towards goal, leaving the goalkeeper stranded in no man’s land.
Relief, as thousands of French flags were waving across the stadium.
His booking ten minutes later was definitely a harsh one: using his large frame to try and win an aerial challenge, he was ultimately penalised by referee Viktor Kassai – but for the last 20 minutes, he was more focused on helping out defensively than netting a second.
His passionate attitude was on-show after he reacted angrily to a set-piece which had been poorly defended, showing just how much he does care, regardless of what the media will tell you.
Understandably given the circumstances, Giroud will not be the headliner in the weekend newspapers – it’s Payet’s time to bask in the glory after an excellent late winner.
But there’s no doubting the forward’s drive, his positive attitude and the resilience he showed, despite missing a few chances, to go and grab himself a goal when France needed it most.