Kylian Mbappe has complimented the ‘freedom’ given to him by former Arsenal and Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud – who shone again for France in place of Karim Benzema.
AC Milan striker Giroud became France’s oldest-ever goalscorer at 35 years and 357 days old with a trademark header in a 2-0 win over Austria in the Nations League.
The goal also ended a worrying four-game winless run for Les Blues, and took Giroud two goals from Thierry Henry’s 51-goal record as the country’s top scorer.
During that winless run, Giroud, a 2018 World Cup winner with France, had made way for Ballon d’Or favourite Benzema, with the Real Madrid forward in extraordinary form at club level.
Benzema staged one of the Champions League’s greatest ever campaigns with 15 goals for Real in 2021/22, bagging a number of crucial late winners in an astonishing run to the final.
The 34-year-old Lyon-born forward has hit peak form during the past few years in Spain, earning him a return to the national side in 2021 after a six-year exile due to off field-issues.
After missing Euro 2016 and France’s victorious 2018 World Cup campaign, Benzema was part of the side that were knocked out of Euro 2020 in the last-16, despite his four goals.
Back alongside Giroud, Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe scored the other goal during the 2-0 win, and bestowed the virtues of the former Premier League man post-match.
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“I have a lot more freedom here,” he said. “The coach knows that there is a number nine like Olivier who occupies the defence.
“Me, I can walk around, go into space, ask for balls… In Paris, there isn’t that, it’s different, I’m asked to do the pivot. I’m very happy with today’s game.”
Asked about his impressive chemistry with Giroud, Mbappe said. “Yes, that’s great. There were some with Antoine [Griezmann] too.
“He was higher up the field, we were able to look without being cut off from the rest of the team.
“We are very happy, now we have to confirm. There is Karim who will also come back, we will see how it will go.
“Olivier Giroud did us a favour again today and I hope he will do it on Sunday too.”
Since Giroud’s debut with France in 2012, the team have posted a 65.8 per cent win rate with him, which drops to 57.1 per cent without him.
Conversely, Les Blues have a 54.5 per cent win rate with Benzema in the same period, which rises to 70.2 per cent without him.
The Mbappe – Giroud – Griezmann trident was also won which saw France victorious at the last World Cup, and Didier Deschamps may have to revert to it, potentially leaving Benzema on the bench, despite the Madrid man likely taking home the Ballon d’Or pre-tournament in October.
It previously appeared that Deschamps had moved on from Giroud, but that theory was quashed by the manager following their victory.
“I never said I was going to deprive myself of him,” Deschamps said. “You’re drawing conclusions.
“He scored, all the better for him. He’s in an excellent state of mind.
“He took part in a lot of plays and attacking moves. As he does almost systematically. He found himself in some very, very, very difficult situations these last few years, with little to no playing time, and every time he was called up to the France team he performed. It’s very good for the France team.”
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