- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2016

PARIS (AP) - Olivier Giroud is gunning for goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

With 10 goals in his past 11 games for France, Giroud is in the best form of his career heading into the European Championship semifinal against Germany on Thursday.

He also has a taste for scoring against Neuer.

“Of course he’s a key player for them, but I’ve scored a few against him,” Giroud said Monday. “In any case, he’s not an insurmountable wall.”

When France beat Germany 2-0 in November, Giroud scored against Neuer - who has conceded only one goal at Euro 2016.

Neuer was also in goal when Giroud scored home and away for Arsenal against Bayern Munich in the Champions League last season, and he also netted against him when the Gunners won 2-0 away to Bayern during the 2012-13 campaign.

The following season, Giroud scored against Borussia Dortmund.

“I generally do well against German clubs as well,” said Giroud, who has three goals at Euro 2016.

His muscular style of play, allied to good technique and heading ability, seems to work against German players. The first of his 20 goals for France was against Germany in 2012 and his first goal in the Champions League for Arsenal was against Schalke 04 later that year.

No wonder, given his track record and his current form, he is confident about the week ahead.

“My objective is to help us win the Euro,” he said. “If I can help us do that by scoring one or two more goals then that’s great.”

Five weeks ago, fans jeered Giroud off the pitch when he was substituted against Cameroon, even though he scored a volley in a 3-2 win.

By contrast, he was given a huge ovation on Sunday night after scoring twice in a 5-2 win against Iceland in the quarterfinals.

“It’s nice to be cheered. But it’s not a case of revenge,” the 29-year-old Giroud said. “I give everything for the team. That’s the main thing.”

Giroud, who is 1.92 meters (6-foot-3), has not always been high in the popularity stakes.

Despite a healthy return of 82 goals in 182 games for Arsenal, he has yet to win over a section of the fans. Whatever he does, he is always being compared: either to former Arsenal stars Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie, or to France’s Karim Benzema.

He does miss chances, sometimes many, but good strikers keep getting them because they know how to find dangerous positions.

One of the hallmarks of Giroud’s play - one that endears him to other Arsenal fans - is that he never hides and always works hard.

His ratio of 20 goals in 53 games for France is better than Benzema’s 27 in 81, and Giroud has played much more as a substitute than Benzema.

Benzema, a two-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid - where he has scored 161 goals - is not playing at Euro 2016. He is facing preliminary charges of conspiracy to blackmail France teammate Mathieu Valbuena and coach Didier Deschamps left him out.

Some observers view Giroud’s success as a triumph over Benzema, having been in his shadow.

It’s not a view that’s shared by Giroud, whose career path saw him play for unheralded French clubs Grenoble, Istres and Tours, before winning the French title with Montpellier in 2011-12 and securing a move to the Premier League.

“I’m not turning it into anything personal,” Giroud said. “(Karim) will be back in the (France) team. I don’t have any problems with him.”

At the 2014 World Cup, France’s attacking trio in the 1-0 quarterfinal loss to Germany was Valbuena, Benzema and Antoine Griezmann.

On Thursday, Griezmann and Dimitri Payet will be looking to play Giroud into goal scoring positions, while the Arsenal forward will be aiming to lay the ball off for his teammates.

Together, the three players have scored 10 of France’s 11 goals at Euro 2016 - Griezmann with a tournament-leading four and Payet three. Each of the three has also provided two assists.

“There is chemistry between us,” Giroud said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide