11/30/2022
Olivier Giroud highlighted the importance of replacing Paul Pogbas influence on the France squad as Didier Deschamps side prepare for the World Cup.

Having lifted their second World Cup in 2018, France are considered one of the main contenders to emerge victorious in Qatar, though injuries to Pogba and other key players could harm their chances.

Pogba has not made a single competitive appearance since returning to Juventus in July, and was ruled out of the tournament after undergoing delayed surgery on a knee injury.

The midfielder, who scored in the World Cup final against Croatia four years ago, will be joined on the sidelines by N’Golo Kante, Presnel Kimpembe and Christopher Nkunku, and Giroud believes it is time for other players to assume senior roles.

“We will miss Paul Pogba a lot, like Kante and Kimpembe,” Giroud said on Thursday.

“Paul takes up a lot of space in this France team with his personality, but I am convinced that there are other young leaders who can emerge.

“I too will play my role of big brother for the youngest, be available for them, and speak up when necessary.”

With 49 goals in 114 international appearances, Giroud is second in France’s all-time goalscoring charts behind Thierry Henry (51), and is also his country’s fifth-most capped player.

Giroud arrives at his third World Cup in fine form after scoring nine times for Milan this season, and will delay any decision regarding his international future until after the tournament.

“I feel good physically, in my game, in my club and in the France team. It’s a period of splendour for me. It’s a gift to feel like this at 36,” Giroud said.

“I don’t set myself any limits, it could be my last competition, but I don’t want to announce anything. We’ll see after the World Cup. My motivation to stay at the highest level is intact.”

France fell short of expectations when they suffered a last-16 exit at Euro 2020 last year, and Giroud believes it would be wrong to consider them favourites to triumph in Qatar.

“It’s a childhood dream, when you have the chance to participate, you want to go to the end. I was lucky that it came true in 2018,” Giroud added.

“Having the opportunity to play a third World Cup with this young, talented group gives us a lot of hope. We have a lot of hope but also humility, we do not make ourselves favourites.

“We know that there are very big teams in this World Cup. I have a lot of confidence in this group.”