ROUD NOT TO ZIDANE, Platini, Henry, Benzema, Mbappe, Griezmann, Fontaine….when you think of all the superstars who have graced the French shirt over the years, no-one would ever have bet on Olivier Giroud outscoring the lot of them.
But the much-maligned 36-year-old has now equalled Thierry Henry’s 51-goal international record after silencing his army of critics with a Doha double.
Olivier Giroud scored twice as France came from behind to beat Australia 4-1.
Giroud was overcome with emotion as he levelled Thierry Henry’s all-time goals record.
And it is surely only a matter of time before he is out there on his own as the King of France.
Maybe even as soon as Denmark on Saturday.
The former Arsenal and Chelsea target man didn’t manage a single shot on target despite playing in all seven games when Les Bleus won the World Cup in Russia four years ago.
But with the defending champions in danger of suffering the biggest upset on a day of shocks, it was Giroud who came to the rescue of suffering boss Didier Deschamps.
What’s more, he opened his Qatar account with his first effort of the night to justify Deschamps’ bold decision not to call up a replacement for the injured Karim Benzema.
He reached his half century when Kylian Mbappe sent full-back Nat Atkinson into the crowd with an audacious backheel before Adrien Rabiot laid it on a plate for the veteran Milan striker.
And he hauled himself level with Henry in the 72nd minute when Mbappe hung up a cross and Giroud forced his way between the Aussie central defenders to power a header past keeper Mat Ryan.
It was just what Deschamps needed to steady his nerves after Rabiot had headed a 27th minute equaliser.
Craig Goodwin fired Australia ahead after just nine minutes.
Adrien Rabiot levelled the score 18 minutes later.
Because up until that moment it looked as though the bold Socceroos were going to detonate the biggest bombshell in World Cup history.
Four years ago in Russia they had only lost their opening group game to France through a late own-goal.
And they had clearly been stewing on that one as they made it clear right from the outset that they weren’t interested in any more hard luck stories.
Yet even the most optimistic Aussies in the Al Janoub Stadium wouldn’t have envisaged their team seizing a tenth minute lead when Mat Leckie cut inside Lucas Hernandez to cross for Craig Goodwin to slam home at the back post.
Giroud bagged his first of the night after the half-hour mark.
Kylian Mbappe made it 3-1 in the 68th minute.
To make matters worse for France, Hernandez twisted his knee as he was beaten to the punch by Leckie and had to be replaced by his younger brother Theo.
Deschamps must have been starting to believe that someone up there doesn’t like him as he added yet another key player to his ever expanding list of crocks.
He’s already had to get by without the injured Benzema, Paul Pobga, N’Golo Kante, Christopher Nkunku and Presnel Kimpembe and now must fear that he will also be without Bayern left-back Hernandez for the rest of the tournament.
Giroud netted his 51st international goal moments later.
Teammates mobbed Giroud as his goal secured the victory.
For Mbappe has been built up as one of the faces of Qatar 2022 with his image seemingly plastered on every billboard in Doha.
And with his team decimated by the absence of half their strongest line-up, there was an even greater weight of his expectation on his young shoulders ahead of the launch of France’s title defence.
Yet the brilliant 23-year-old carried the burden with ease and gained the reward his efforts deserved when he headed in from Ousmane Dembele’s 68th minute cross.
He should have scored even earlier but somehow volleyed over from two yards out while Giroud was only just off target with a spectacular second-half scissor kick.
But Deschamps could afford to shrug off those near misses as his team went through the gears like a well-oiled machine.
Just like England, the French came into this tournament on the back of a miserable run of recent results with fans fearing their team had lost its joie de vivre.
But just like the Three Lions, they have quickly shown that they are serious contenders here in Qatar after laying down an impressive marker in their opening game.