Olivier Giroud breaks Henry’s French record with 52nd goal

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The national team scoring record now checked off his list, Olivier Giroud turned his attention to helping France win a second consecutive World Cup.

Giroud broke Thierry Henry’s French record with his 52nd goal for his country on Sunday when he scored the first in a 3-1 victory over Poland that put the reigning champions in the World Cup quarterfinals.

“I really wanted to score this goal (against Poland). I was kind of relieved after this goal,” Giroud said. “We can move on and forget about this, because so many people we’re talking about this. Now it is done, that it is a good thing. But most important is to score more goals to help the team to reach our target, which is to go as far as we can.”

The 36-year-old Giroud had tied Henry’s record of 51 goals when he scored twice in a 4-1 win over Australia in France’s opening game in Qatar.

Against Poland on Sunday, Giroud picked up a pass from Kylian Mbappe in the 44th minute and sent a low shot with his left foot past Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny, his former teammate at Arsenal. Mbappe added two of his own goals.

It was not too long ago that Giroud had no idea if he’d even have a chance to break the record.

He was left off the French squad in May for Nations League games, although France coach Didier Deschamps did not rule out eventually adding the veteran. But when he was chosen, it was supposed to be in a substitute role.

Then Karim Benzema — the Real Madrid star and winner of this year’s Ballon d’Or award as player of the year — was ruled out on the eve of the tournament with a torn thigh muscle, opening an opportunity for Giroud. He seized that opportunity, and then some.

“Am I getting better with age, like fine wine? A lot of friends say the same about that. It’s funny,” Giroud said. “I feel good physically, I feel the motiviation and determination to play at the best level. As long as my body allows me, I will carry on, because I am a competitor and I am enjoying the game so much and this team. It’s such an honor to be a part of this team and represent France.

“I will carry on and I don’t know until wherever. I don’t want to put any limits on it.”

Deschamps praised his veteran for coming through a difficult 2018 World Cup in which he failed to score and then dropped into a substitute role behind Benzema.

“Olivier has always been an important player and four years ago he didn’t score. There were difficult periods for him,” Deschamps said. “He was often criticized. But he’s managed to remain strong, mentally strong, and yes he’s broken the record and it was a very difficult record to break. To score so many goals at international level is an achievement.”

France defender Jules Kounde said the entire team was pleased for the veteran leader when he broke Henry’s record.

“It shows longevity, a lot of work, confidence, too,” Kounde said. “He’s a really good person and also player. He’s one of the leaders and one of the most experienced on the team and he always showed a good spirit.”

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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