Olivier Giroud insisted that he will step up to fill Paul Pogba’s shoes as a leader in the French dressing room in Qatar, with the midfielder one of several stars ruled out through injury.
Both Pogba and Giroud helped Les Bleus to their second title in Russia four years ago, but Pogba will now have to make do with a spot on the sidelines after sustaining an injury early on in his summer return to Juventus.
Giroud described his role in Didier Deschamps side as a ‘big brother’ for the young talents that have made the 26-man squad for France, including Arsenal’s William Saliba, Dayot Upamecano, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni.
‘Paul Pogba will be sorely missed through the World Cup but it is not just him, I am thinking of N’Golo Kante and Christopher Nkunku too.
‘We are thinking of them and will hopefully make them proud. Paul takes a lot of space in the team with his personality and charisma but there are other leaders who will emerge.
‘I have my role as a big brother for the younger players to be available to them and to speak when it is needed and to motivate the team and keep them together.’
Pogba – as Giroud says – is not alone in missing out, with N’Golo Kante suffering a hamstring injury, and Christopher Nkunku being ruled out a matter of days before the opening clash with Australia in training.
But the former Chelsea and Arsenal striker is heading to his sixth – and likely final – major tournament with his country, having been a linchpin of Deschamps system, selflessly holding up the ball in attack.
And he is now just two goals away from equalling Gunners legend Thierry Henry’s 51-goal record for his country, with a view to pulling himself clear at the top in Qatar with three.
However, he was insistent that the team’s success at football’s greatest tournament comes ahead of any individual record.
‘I treat it like a young player because I want to enjoy every single moment,’ he added. ‘I have this target and bonus in my head to beat Thierry but the main goal of the team is to go as far as we can in the competition.
‘Hopefully we can bring the Cup home. To get another would be amazing. I am still hungry. I feel physically good and am very happy with my team and my club.
‘To be 36 and to still be able to feel good and play like this is a gift and I hope to be able to continue like this. Maybe it could be my last competition but I am not announcing anything.
‘We will see after the World Cup. As long as my body will allow it, I won’t fix any limits. With my age I know I am closer to the end of my career than the beginning but I am still very motivated.’