There’s nothing quite like the feeling of representing your country at a major tournament, with the entire nation behind you.
That’s the thoughts of Olivier Giroud, who was an 11-year-old when he watched the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps and Thierry Henry lift the World Cup at France 98 in front of a jubilant public.
Our striker, who arrived from Arsenal in January, almost repeated the feat with his French team-mates two years ago, but the hosts couldn’t lift the European Championship as they were defeated 1-0 after extra-time by Portugal.
Sure, that moment was tough to take. Sure, it takes time to overcome such a defeat. However, Giroud and the rest of the French certainly weren’t going to wallow. In fact, they believe they’ve come back stronger and hungrier than ever ahead of next week’s World Cup in Russia.
‘Of course, Euro 2016 was a very painful memory,’ recalls Olivier. ‘We thought we could win the final against Portugal, especially being the host nation, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
‘We have all grown from that experience though, you can’t look back. It was tough but I think we will come back stronger from it. We have a good mix of youth and experience in our squad and although I think we are probably still outsiders for the title compared to some other teams, we have a good chance to show the world that France can win another World Cup. We are going to Russia to try and do that, just like every other team.
‘I’m very proud every time I represent my country and pull on the French shirt. I think for me, it is even more enjoyable because I didn’t make my debut until I was a little bit older and I had been working very hard for that moment.
‘I didn’t play at 19 or 20 like some other players, but I know where I’ve come from and I think one of my main strengths was my mental ability to never give up on my dreams and my targets, which was to play for France at the World Cup. I can’t wait to play and have my friends and family watching me.’