Karim Benzema’s absence for the 2022 World Cup turns the spotlight on the Kylian Mbappé phenomenon and the unsinkable Olivier Giroud, a complementary and peaceful offensive brace with the Blues, a year and a half after the tensions that appeared before the last Euro.
The immense disappointment of the Ballon d’Or, injured in a thigh and forfeit for the tournament, reconstitutes the winning attacking trio of the 2018 World Cup, with the Giroud-Mbappé duo flanked by the playmaker Antoine Griezmann.
Even if coach Didier Deschamps may add a fourth striker, such as Ousmane Dembélé, to his animation, the forces present necessarily revive the sweet memory of Moscow.
It’s not that bad. In fact, Mbappé is never as comfortable as in full light. And Giroud, eternal return at 36, still shines when he comes out of the shadows.
“My role in the team? Everything is clear with the coach, there’s nothing to add. When the coach needs me, I’ll try to bring what I can do to the team, as always when I arrived in France, I did the job,” explained the Milan centre-forward at a press conference on Thursday.
Once again the indestructible N.9 of the Blues stands like a “phoenix”, nickname that some friends attribute to it. For a year Deschamps had refused to call him when Benzema was available, worried about Giroud’s ability to integrate without hesitation in the group.
– “Pivot” role –
The absence of the Madrid native ensures him a starting position, with a real opportunity to become the top scorer in the history of the Blues, ahead of Thierry Henry (51 goals), who precedes him by only two points.
Above all, he will spare the Blues questions about his coexistence with the Madrid player, a dossier that has been constantly reopened for more than ten years.
An avenue opens up for Mbappé. If he is to share glory and light with Neymar and Lionel Messi at Paris SG, the young world champion is now the sole planetary star with the Blues, a role that suits his temperament perfectly.
In the selection, “I have much more freedom, the coach knows that there is a number 9 like + Oliva + who occupies the defences, I can go around, go into the spaces, ask for balls”, he had launched during the meeting in September, in absence of Benzema, injured. “There’s no such thing in Paris, I’m asked to pivot.”
An offensive declaration towards PSG that almost sounded like a small declaration of love for Giroud. “He was higher up the field, we managed to find three (with Griezmann) without being cut off from the rest of the team,” underlined the Parisian after France-Austria (2-0).
Already that evening Mbappé was wondering about the consequences of the return of “KB19”: “There is also Karim who will return, we’ll see how it goes”.
– From charlatan to “praise” –
Here is “Kyky” spared from these tactical reflections. With Giroud as a fixture in the box, Bondy’s star will have all the freedom he wants to make the difference.
“I’m a striker who has the qualities of + target man +, as they say in England, with a pivot game, a deflection. In my career, I’ve evolved with players who liked my profile because they could lean on me. It’s something he (Mbappé) likes it, it’s an advantage for him,” the former Montpellier resident explained on Thursday.
“As far as Kylian is concerned, it’s always nice to receive praise from his partners and it’s good for the future,” she added.
These exchanged compliments validate the thesis of a serene relationship between the two men, a year and a half after a communication hitch that had created problems, in full preparation for the Euro.
Interviewed after his brace in the final against Bulgaria (3-0), the Milanese had pointed to his team-mate: “I was discreet because sometimes we go shopping and the balls don’t arrive”, he had slipped. Mbappé didn’t like it and let it be known.
On the road to Qatar, Giroud and Mbappé now seem to be walking in the same direction.