Often underappreciated and sometimes written off, there's little doubt France play better with Olivier Giroud, as demonstrated on Thursday as Les Bleus stuttered to a 1-0 win over Peru.
Didier Deschamps sprung a surprise against Australia in France's World Cup opener when naming a front three of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, leaving Giroud on the bench after suffering a head injury in a pre-tournament friendly.
Although they ran out 2-1 winners in Kazan, they were by no means convincing and their disappointing front three were a major reason for that. For that reason, it was anything but a shock to see Dembele dropped and Giroud restored to the starting XI to face Peru.
No one will claim the resulting performance was vintage in Ekaterinburg, but the improvement was certainly notable.
With Giroud on the field, France had a focal point, someone to knit everything together in attack. The prime example being his nodding down of a lofted pass for Griezmann to go close in the 16th minute.
The Chelsea forward's presence – combined with the structural improvement he offers - helped his attacking colleagues no end, including inspiring the opening goal as he latched on to Paul Pogba's pass to get away a shot that deflected kindly to Mbappe for an easy finish.
And then Mbappe darted up the right on the break just before half-time, playing the ball inside to Griezmann, who's clever pass came so close to picking out Giroud. While it failed to produce a goal, each player was exactly where they needed to be, something that could rarely be said against Australia on Saturday.
Griezmann was effective enough against the Socceroos to win – and score – a penalty, but in the face of a compact defence he was never afforded the space to create. Against Peru, his influence was far greater because Giroud occupied the opposing centre-backs.
France were rather quieter in attack upon the restart – Peru doing more to test their inexperienced defence.
Still, Giroud played the role of enforcer, willing runner and target man, doing all he possibly could as most of his team-mates began to falter.
While it's all well and good aiming to go out to entertain, as Deschamps appeared to do by naming the trio of Dembele, Mbappe and Griezmann against Australia, there was little doubt that in a fixture where France were expected to take the initiative, the attack produced little of note.
If France are to go far in the World Cup, Giroud surely represents their best option leading the line. He offers a threat in different ways to his colleagues, while also helps eliminate the issue of three forwards getting in the way of each other, a problem Deschamps mentioned after the opening outing.
While not the most glamorous or exciting of options, Giroud will be pivotal to any success France have in Russia, provided Deschamps makes the right call with the rest of his selections.
16. Juli 2018
|Spieth vows to be more artist than tactician in Open defence|
|Conte thanks Chelsea players, staff and fans|
|Rodgers: I´d love to play with the Packers to 40|
|Sevilla insist N´Zonzi will cost €40m|
|Hugill shows mystic powers with accurate World Cup predictions|
|World Cup 2018: FARE ready for post-tournament challenges in Russia|
|Woods grouped with Matsuyama and Knox at Open|
|Matthaus questions idea of French dynasty|
|Chandimal, Sri Lanka coach and manager banned for two Tests and four ODIs|
|Sassuolo demand at least €30m for Berardi|
|French media revels in ´crazy´ triumph|
|Mafi released on bail after alleged assault|
|Bierhoff must go! Berthold calls for Germany changes|
|Joshua to fight Povetkin in September|
|World Cup 2018: Goal-laden final adds to staggering World Cup stats|
|Runners and Ryders: Molinari impresses again as stars prepare for The Open|
|Macron to greet France team after Champs Elysees parade|
|Casillas and Suarez critical of VAR after World Cup final|
|TMO protocol clearly not working, says SANZAAR|
|Americans seek joy of six at Carnoustie, Rose out to end wretched run - The Open in Opta facts|
|Ronaldo arrives in Turin for Juventus medical|
|Stone: I had no idea what my score was!|
|The Open: A look back at Van de Velde´s Carnoustie calamity|
|Rakitic proud of ´brother´ Modric´s Golden Ball award|
|Serena can surpass Court, but Graf was the real target - Krajicek|
|Ronaldo moved to remain motivated - Kaka|
|Silva confident on Everton transfer targets|
|Golden Boot winner Kane aims to break August hoodoo|
|NFL training camp 2018: Contract holdouts and where they stand|
|Guardiola took me to another level - Alaba|
|Madrid selling Ronaldo a ´historic error´ - Calderon|
|MLS Review: LAFC, Atlanta held at home|
|Stones will watch re-runs of England´s World Cup matches|
|Ferdinand challenges Mourinho to unleash Pogba at United|
|Mbappe: I´m staying at PSG|
|Former NHL goalie Ray Emery found dead|
|Pirates secure five-game sweep of Brewers with walk-off win|
|WATCH: LeBron receives standing ovation at Lakers´ summer league game|
|Tony Romo wins celebrity-filled American Century Championship|
|McGregor praises Putin after attending World Cup final|
|Open-bound Kim claims maiden title with eight-shot triumph|
|Eagles running back Sproles plans to retire after next season|
|World Cup winner Rami retires from international football|
15. Juli 2018
|Wimbledon champion Djokovic did not expect grand slam glory so soon|
|Ibrahimovic praises Pogba after World Cup final display|
|Wimbledon diary: Avengers too late for an Infinity War as Djokovic triumphs|
|Deschamp-agne – France´s 2018 vintage interrupt news conference to drench coach|
|I may have to dust my boots off! - Pele threatened by Mbappe exploits|
|WATCH: Mendy and Pogba dab with president Macron after World Cup win|
|Woods embracing ´different´ Carnoustie challenge ahead of Open return|
|Argentina dismiss Sampaoli after chaotic World Cup|
|France celebrates World Cup triumph|
|Djokovic made ´improvised Wimbledon trophies´ as a boy|
|Stone goes agonisingly close to 59 as Pepperell & Dantorp also make Open|
|Outcast Benzema delights in France win|
|Final a triumph in itself given Croatia´s off-field turmoil|
|Anderson laments Wimbledon final nerves|
|Deschamps joins elite club, Mbappe second to Pele - the best stats from the World Cup final|
|Belgium´s Courtois wins World Cup Golden Glove|
|Collarbone fracture confirmed for ´devastated´ Porte|
|World Cup final player ratings: Griezmann, Mbappe inspire France as Croatia fall short|
|World Cup winner Giroud ends tournament without shot on target|
|Modric wins World Cup Golden Ball|
|Mbappe wins World Cup Young Player award|
|Deschamps redeemed as France win World Cup final for the ages|
|France 4 Croatia 2: Twitter Report|
|Tomlin optimistic over Bell contract|
|Kane wins World Cup Golden Boot|
|Ajax keen on Blind deal - Van der Sar|
|France 4 Croatia 2: Pogba and Mbappe seal thrilling World Cup triumph|