France’s Giroud looking to silence “mudslingers” with goals

June 11, 2016 GMT

CLAIREFONTAINE, France (AP) — France striker Olivier Giroud hopes that he has silenced the “mudslingers” who jeered him and questioned whether he’s good enough for international football.

With coach Didier Deschamps leaving out Karim Benzema from his Euro 2016 squad — the Real Madrid striker is under investigation for his part in a blackmail scam — all eyes were on Giroud.

Two weeks ago, he was booed off the pitch despite scoring in a 3-2 win against Cameroon. On Friday, he scored France’s opening goal against Romania as Les Bleus overcame a jittery performance to win 2-1. It was his eighth goal in the past eight games for France, taking his international tally to 18.

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“My statistics speak for themselves. Several people have told me that I play better through adversity, but I don’t always want to have to be fighting against the mudslingers,” Giroud said Saturday at France’s training camp in Clairefontaine on the Paris outskirts. “I had a lot of pressure on me and there was a lot of expectation. But I’m continuing my run of form and that’s good for me.”

Giroud’s headed goal came midway through the second half. Jumping to meet a cross from attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet, he appeared to make slight contact with goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu’s arm as he leapt.

“I didn’t even notice that I’d touched his arm, but having seen the replays it’s true that it could have been given (as a free kick to Romania),” Giroud said.

“But jumping with your hands by your side doesn’t really help anyone. I do tend to raise my elbows a bit when I jump, but I don’t do it on purpose.”

When Giroud wasted two free headers in the first half — set up both times by Payet’s exquisite crosses — Arsenal fans would have known how frustrated French supporters were feeling.

Since joining Arsenal in 2012, the 29-year-old Giroud has developed a reputation as a hard-working yet erratic striker, whose body language when he misses chances too evidently reveals his frustration to defenders.

But over the past season, Giroud has been improving his body language and attitude as much as his finishing.

“I’m still really annoyed with myself when I miss chances, but the difference is that I try to show it less to other people and I’ve really worked on that,” he said. “It’s important not to show your disappointment too much, because as a striker you need to concentrate quickly again. You need to be in the right frame of mind to take the next chance, because it can come just one minute later.”

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Encouragingly for France, he has been developing a good understanding with Payet in recent games. Payet scored France’s 89th-minute winner against Romania with a sensational late strike, and created many clear-cut chances within the first hour.

“He played the almost perfect match, he could have finished the game with five or six assists if we’d taken out chances better,” Giroud said. “He’s taken on another dimension. Let’s hope there are other big nights like this, so ‘Thank You Dimitri.’”