France boss Didier Deschamps saluted striker Olivier Giroud as he matched superstar Zinedine Zidane’s international goals tally ahead of the World Cup finals.
The 31-year-old Chelsea hitman struck for the 31st time for his country in a 2-0 friendly victory over the Republic of Ireland at the Stade de France to join an exclusive group of players.
Deschamps said: “It means that he’s efficient and he has been efficient for years for the French squad. It’s what you want from a striker.
“He’s part of a closed circle of players now. He’s been criticised in the past, but his style of play helps the French team tremendously.”
In torrential rain in Paris, Giroud stabbed the home side into a 40th-minute lead and then saw fellow frontman Nabil Fekir add a second – courtesy of keeper Colin Doyle’s howler – before the break.
France, even without the likes of N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann in their starting line-up, dominated from the off.
Bayern Munich midfielder Corentin Tolisso caught the eye to give Deschamps something to think about ahead of his side’s Group C opener against Australia in Kazan on June 16.
Asked if Tolisso’s performance had put pressure on Manchester United star Pogba, the manager replied: “He played a good match and yes, it’s good for us. It’s good for him, for the team.
“It means I’ll have a decision to make later, but it’s only a good thing to have as many good midfielders as France has.”
If Deschamps was a happy man, opposite number Martin O’Neill insisted he was not too downhearted after seeing a largely inexperienced side which included three debutants – Blackburn defender Derrick Williams and substitutes Shaun Williams and Shamrock Rovers striker Graham Burke – thrown in.
O’Neill said: “We were naturally second-best this evening against a world-class team and that was possibly to be expected.
🗒ï¸ REPORT: Two first-half goals helped @equipedefrance to a 2-0 win against Ireland🇮🇪 this evening— FAIreland â½ï¸🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) May 28, 2018
Derrick Williams, Graham Burke and Shaun Williams all won their first caps in the game!
â¡ï¸ https://t.co/IsmHfU2ZPF #COYBIG #FRAIRL pic.twitter.com/A7EhechH6v
“It was a really, really tough game for us – that was also to be expected – but I am really pleased that we have taken this fixture on because if you’re trying to aspire to something, that sort of quality that the French possess is something you would want.”
The game saw 19-year-old West Ham defender Declan Rice win his second senior cap, initially in a midfield holding role, and he turned in another assured display in the midst of a stern examination.
O’Neill said: “For one so young and not to have played that many games with that sort of opposition that he’s playing against, that can only improve his game, to see again even very much at this very young age what you have to aspire to.
“I keep saying that, but that’s what it is, the benchmark, very much at World Cup level, the very, very top of the World Cup.
“You’re talking about the opposition having players playing in European Champions League games, Europa League matches at the very best clubs in Europe, and Declan Rice in there in centre midfield today trying to play against that, so that’s really encouraging for him.”