Olivier Giroud confounded the doubters as France reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals – but the striker is savouring the victory rather than his man-of-the-match display against Iceland.
Having sometimes frustrated fans and been c aught in the crossfire over the decision to overlook Karim Benzema, the divisive 29-year-old was jeered by some French supporters leading up the tournament.
However, Giroud made a mockery of such abuse on Sunday evening by scoring twice in the 5-2 quarter-final win against Iceland, leaving the field to a standing ovation.
The Arsenal striker cupped his ears when celebrating his second goal but downplayed the personal impact of his performance at the Stade de France.
He said: “It’s always nice to be named man of the match but, first and foremost, it’s about the team reaching the semi-finals and our performance.
“We scored five goals and are very pleased, although we did concede two.
“Iceland didn’t give up at any stage of the match as we knew – they were a very valiant side, a very determined outfit, they kept going right until the end and I’d like to give them a lot of credit because they had a great campaign in the European Championships.
“We’re going to savour this victory. We are going to rest up and focus once again for Thursday because we have a big match against the world champions.
“From my perspective, I’m pleased, nothing more than that. I am pleased for the team, my family and the French public as a whole.
“I don’t know if it’s my best performance (for France). I have played some other good games as well, but in a major tournament that is perhaps my best performance, if you will.
“I felt really good physically right from the start of the game.”
Giroud netted just 12 minutes into the match in Paris, with Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann adding classy goals to see France take a four-goal half-time lead.
It was the first time a side has scored four goals in the first half at a European Championship finals, stylishly ending Les Bleus’ wait for a maiden first-half goal – a timely boost ahead of facing world champions Germany.
“We’re used to making bad starts to matches and we were able to change that,” Giroud said. “That’s good going forward, we need to retain that.
“We were on top right from the first few minutes and we were very clinical, so that’s nice.
“From a personal perspective it is good as well and I am scoring once again.”
Returning to the Stade de France for the final will be tough but Giroud is confident of getting the desired outcome from Thursday’s semi-final in Marseille.
“It will be a totally different match,” he said. “They’re the world champions and they’re often in the last four of major tournaments. It will be a great match.
“We have a lot of desire to try and get our own back for what happened in the World Cup.
“We beat them here in a friendly match, we won 2-0, but it will be a completely different game in Marseille.
“I hope the French public are as excitable in the stadium as they were here and I hope they’ll support us all the way.
“We are lucky enough to play a European Championship semi-final in front of a home crowd.
“From my perspective, I’m very proud of what this French side is achieving and I hope we will once again come out with the right result.”