France coach Didier Deschamps spent part of his first day in Russia defending Olivier Giroud as the Chelsea forward battles to stave off stiff competition for places ahead of Les Bleus’ World Cup opener against Australia.
Giroud recently scored his 31st international goal, equalling the tally in a France shirt of Zinedine Zidane, but Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele has also staked his claim for a starting berth in attack with his form in the pre-tournament friendly matches.
“Don’t take any of Olivier’s quality away from him. He scores a lot of goals, and regardless of whether they are beautiful or not, they are still goals. He is a finisher, a goal-scorer with a different profile,” insisted Deschamps at France’s base in Istra, near Moscow.
Giroud should be fine for France’s opening Group C clash with Australia in Kazan on Saturday afternoon despite needing stitches in a head wound suffered in the 1-1 friendly draw with the United States in Lyon at the weekend.
“His head is fine. He has had six stitches so obviously as a precaution we need to make sure he doesn’t touch the ball with his head for at least the next 48 hours,” said Deschamps.
Rain greeted the French team as they trained for the first time in Russia on a pitch deep in the forest west of the capital, where Deschamps is fine-tuning his players ahead of their World Cup campaign.
He already admitted to French television on Sunday that Paul Pogba is almost certain to start against Australia despite criticism of his performances this season. N’Golo Kante will also play in the French midfield, but the other spot is up for grabs between Blaise Matuidi of Juventus and Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso.