World Cup: Giroud targets scoring record as France face Denmark

France striker Olivier Giroud during a training session on Nov 24, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

DOHA – Olivier Giroud will bid to become France’s all-time top scorer when they face Denmark in Group D at the World Cup on Saturday, with Les Bleus looking for a victory that will take them into the round of 16 with a game to spare.

Target man Giroud, 36, is level with Thierry Henry on 51 goals after scoring twice in their 4-1 win against Australia on Tuesday.

“Titi, I’m coming for you,” Giroud joked after the Australia game, during which he benefited from the impressive work of Kylian Mbappe.

While the reigning champions got their campaign off to a convincing start, there will be no complacency going into the match against Denmark. Didier Deschamps’ side lost their last two meetings with the Danes in the Nations League.

Attacking players Mbappe, Giroud, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele all started against Australia, but a wary Deschamps may be tempted to take a more cautious approach on Saturday.

“In many cases Denmark are underrated as a team,” the 54-year-old Frenchman said on Friday.

“They beat us twice and made life very difficult for us, so we have to make sure that’s not the case tomorrow. It’s not a case of wanting revenge because we know the Denmark players and they know us... we’ve looked at their players and learnt from the experience, but they will have too.”

France captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris also insisted that Denmark are an “excellent side” and the Nations League defeats were a “wake-up” for the team.

“We don’t need any extra motivation. We are fully aware of the importance of tomorrow’s game. We know it will be decisive,” he added.

In central defence, Deschamps might be able to call upon the experienced Raphael Varane as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury, while Theo Hernandez should start at left-back after his brother Lucas was ruled out of the competition with a knee injury.

Varane’s availability is a boost for Deschamps, who has lost a host of key players in the lead-up to and during the World Cup.

France arrived without Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante – stars of their 2018 World Cup triumph – and Presnel Kimpembe. Striker Karim Benzema, the Ballon d’Or winner, and Hernandez were then forced to drop out.

Les Bleus will be ensured of first place in the group if they win and the earlier match between Tunisia and Australia finishes in a draw.

Denmark were held to a goal-less draw against Tunisia in their opener and coach Kasper Hjulmand said they would have to up the tempo against France.

“If you’re not speeding up against France, you’re probably in trouble. We must step up, but we are ready to do it, to find ourselves again,” the 50-year-old Dane said.

Danish captain Simon Kjaer will be tasked with keeping AC Milan teammate Giroud quiet.

“I wish the best of Ollie, but hopefully I have an advantage. Ollie is also one of the best strikers in the box in my opinion, probably underrated as a striker,” he said.

The Danes will be missing midfielder Thomas Delaney, who suffered a knee injury in the first half against Tunisia and has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament. REUTERS, AFP

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