France’s Olivier Giroud credits switch from Arsenal to Chelsea for good form

France will have one of the strongest squads at the 2018 World Cup. Here’s why.
Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir scored to lead France over Ireland on a rainy night at the Stade de France.
International Friendly: Olivier Giroud (40′) France 1-0 Ireland
International Friendly: Nabil Fekir (43′) France 2-0 Ireland

France striker Olivier Giroud has said his January move from Arsenal to Chelsea has helped him to hit form in time for the World Cup.

Giroud, 31, scored the opening goal shortly before half-time as Les Bleus cruised to a 2-0 win over the Republic of Ireland in a friendly at the Stade de France on Monday.

The latest telling contribution from the former Montpellier player comes after he helped Chelsea beat Manchester United to win the FA Cup final earlier this month.

When asked by ESPN FC if his goal against Ireland was further evidence that his decision to leave Arsenal after five-and-a-years had paid off, Giroud admitted that he felt he had to move on.

“I had to impose myself at Chelsea all the same,” he said. “I´ve always been lucky enough to have made the right decisions, if I can say that. I´ve always felt that I’ve had good fortune in that way.

“It’s not just about making the right choice. You have to make your mark too. I had the chance to do that and I’m very happy. It’s a development in my career in terms of my club.

“I feel very good there and it was definitely a new challenge that was needed for my development, for the rest of my career, and also for the World Cup.

“I performed for Chelsea and that helped me keep my confidence up and to be in form so that I would be ready for France.”

Since his move to Chelsea, Giroud has netted three times in 13 Premier League matches — including the only goal against Liverpool earlier this month. He also hit the target twice in the FA Cup, most notably with a superb individual effort against Southampton in the semifinal.

Giroud’s opener against Ireland — added to by the impressive Nabil Fekir shortly afterwards — also showcased his talent. He first won a towering header over Shane Duffy from a corner before reacting quickest to jam home the rebound after his initial effort was saved.

It was his 31st goal in 72 matches for France, bringing him level with Zinedine Zidane in fourth position on the list of all-time top goalscorers for his country.

“I obviously feel very proud,” he said. “Zizou is a legend of French football and for me it’s clearly a great satisfaction on a personal level.

“But I don’t like talking about myself too much. Even if I’m keen to move up in this hierarchy, I owe it to the good work of my teammates as well.”

France will play two further friendly matches — against Italy on Friday and the United States on June 9 — before opening their World Cup campaign in Russia with a game against Australia on June 16.

Mark covers European football for ESPN FC. Twitter: @mrodden